In few days time, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in Egypt with 24 teams contending to be crowned kings of the continent.
As expected fans, pundits, and football writers across Africa and maybe the rest of the world are already basking on the euphoria as well as speculating on teams that may lift the trophy.
But will Egypt win their eight title on home soil?
Hosting to win again?
Egypt has participated in the AFCON so many times and are the most successful team in the history of the competition as they won a record of seven titles including three in a row between 2006 and 2010.
Egypt was the first team ever to win the Africa Cup of Nations. The tournament was held for the first time in Sudan in February 1957 with only three teams participating; Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan while South Africa – one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – was disqualified due to its apartheid policies.
Egypt is preparing to host the AFCON for the fifth time in history, setting a record as the country hosting the competition most. They hosted the AFCON in 1959, 1974, 1986, 2006, and now in 2019, surpassing Ghana who hosted the championship four times in 1963, 1978, 2000, and 2008.
No doubt, many countries have hosted the AFCON and ended up winning the title.
Ironically, Egypt was the first and last to both host and win the AFCON in 1959 and 2006. The first time was in 1959 when Egypt defeated Sudan in the final. The last time Egypt clinched the prestigious title on their land was in 2006 against Cote d’Ivoire.
In 1962, Ethiopia won the AFCON title at home after beating Egypt in the final. Ghana was also one of the teams hosting the championship and winning its title in the 1963 edition after beating Sudan. Six years later, Sudan took revenge, winning the AFCON title in 1970 against Ghana.
In the 1978 edition, Ghana hosted the championship and won its title after beating Uganda 2-0 in the final. In 1980, Nigeria (also the host) won the title against Algeria after winning 3-0 in the final.
After a long absence, Egypt won the title when they hosted the competition for the second time in 1986, beating Cameroon on penalties in the final.
In 1990, Algeria won its first AFCON title after winning over Nigeria in the final. The Algerian team took revenge from Nigeria as the former lost the title race to the Green Eagles in 1980.
In 1996, South Africa won the AFCON title when they hosted it, beating Tunisia 2-0 in the final. In 2004, Tunisia won their only African title when they hosted the competition and beat Morocco 2-1 in the final.
For the third time, Egypt won when they hosted in 2006, beating Cote d’Ivoire on penalties.
In the 1982 edition, Libya (the host) lost to Ghana 7-6 on penalties. In 2000, the Nigerian team lost to Cameroon 4-3 on penalties in the final.
Lucky number 18 for Egypt?
Throughout the AFCON finals, Egypt were coached by 17 different managers before the current Javier Aguirre.
Only seven foreign coaches managed the Pharaohs in the AFCON finals.
El Gohary led Egypt in 1992, 1998, and 2002. He won the African title once in 1998. He was the first to win the title both as a player and a coach in Africa.
Shehata was Egypt’s coach in 2006, 2008, and 2010. He won the title in the three editions to be the only one in Africa to win the AFCON title in three consecutive editions.
The last person who coached the Pharaohs in the AFCON finals was Argentinean Hector Cuper in the 2017 edition held in Gabon.
Javier Aguirre first point of duty as a new manager was to find solutions to the national team’s weaknesses and hopefully, we shall see more of his tactical plans in this year’s AFCON.
PREPARATION FOR 2019
Egypt qualified to the AFCON finals 23 times before the current edition. They are one of the teams who have qualified the most for the AFCON.
They commenced preparation for the Mundial after their shock defeat to Cameroon in Gabon at the 2017 finals. The Pharaohs of Egypt topped their group in the qualifiers even after they have been declared the host of the 2019 AFCON.
In their Pre- AFCON games. They lost 1-0 to Nigeria and won Tanzania 1-0 and Guinea 3-0 respectively.
What to expect at the AFCON 2019
Egypt will open the championship with a game against Zimbabwe on the 21st and will later play DR Congo and Uganda in Group A where they are hopeful to surmount the threats of their opponents and qualify to the next round.
Egypt has faced all their group rivals, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe, before at the Cup of Nations, winning seven matches and losing only one.
They can draw confidence from the support of their fans who have always been their twelfth man on the field of play whose obsessive support has always been a key factor with numerous visiting coaches complaining that the endless noise from the stands prevents their touchline instructions being heard.
Also, They possess in serial Liverpool scorer Mohamed Salah and will expect a passionate talismanic display from him alongside vastly experienced internationals like Tarek Hamed, and Mohammed El-Neny, tireless midfield enforcers and often unsung heroes.
Though there will be strong opposition from other formidable teams at the AFCON, the wealth of experience of the Egyptians is one capable of taking them all the way.