Port-Gentil (Gabon) (AFP) – Ahmed Elmohamady knows what it takes to win the Africa Cup of Nations and the Hull City man is quietly confident that Egypt can go all the way again on their long-awaited return to the tournament.
Elmohamady is only 29 but the flying wing-back is a comparative veteran in a young Egypt squad taken to Gabon by the wily Hector Cuper.
He is also one of only four survivors from the side that won a third consecutive Cup of Nations in 2010 along with Ahmed Fathy, Mohamed Abdel-Shafi and veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary. That was the last time they made it to Africa’s biggest stage.
But Egypt’s name alone garners respect in Africa and the presence of such a quartet, he says, can help propel the team to a record eighth Cup of Nations.
“The manager always says the one target is to win the Cup. Because in Africa everyone knows how good Egypt is, how good we were before when we were winning the Cup,” Elmohamady tells AFP, just after a tropical downpour soaked Port-Gentil.
“Not too many players have won it before but we have some experience in this group that can help the team to go through and win the Cup.”
The game in Egypt suffered enormously after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak and as a result of the deadly Port Said stadium disaster of 2012, after which domestic football was suspended.
“The whole thing affected us, but it’s all gone now,” he says.
“Everything is back again, football is back again and it helps the national team of course.
“To win the Cup again would be very good for the country, for the people who are waiting for something to celebrate in Egypt.”
Egypt have failed to light up the tournament in their first two games but a 0-0 draw with Mali and a 1-0 win against Uganda have them on the brink of the quarter-finals.
A draw in their last Group D game against Ghana on Wednesday will see them qualify and justify the cautious approach taken by veteran Argentine coach Cuper.
“Now modern football is always like attacking football, the full-backs always high, but he is a bit different, a bit old-school, but it helps us, suits us as a team,” Elmohamady says.
– Premier League hopes –
Cuper’s record is sound and built around a miserly defence. Egypt have suffered just three defeats since his appointment in March 2015.
For Elmohamady that improvement has been at his expense.
A young fringe player in the 2008 Cup of Nations win and a key element of the 2010 side, he has not yet played in Gabon.
Nevertheless, he is eager to help the country with their twin objective of impressing in Gabon and qualifying for next year’s World Cup, something they have not done since 1990.
“All the fans in Egypt, their only one dream is to go to the World Cup,” Elmohamady says.
“That is the main target but at the same point we are in the Africa Cup of Nations now.
“I remember from being here in 2008 and 2010 — it was very, very hard before. Some big, big teams played and I think this time it is not that difficult to win it so we have to just focus and concentrate on our games and enjoy the competition.”
Elmohamady is fully settled in England, where he arrived at Sunderland from Cairo side ENPPI in 2010, but left Hull to join up with Egypt just when Mike Phelan was sacked as manager.
Marco Silva has since come in and Elmohamady is following events there from afar — his meeting with AFP came just before Hull’s Premier League clash with Chelsea on Sunday.
Hull lost 2-0 at the league leaders but showed the kind of spirit they will need to avoid relegation.
“Of course every time when the manager gets sacked or leaves the club it is disappointing for the players, but hopefully Marco Silva can settle quick and we can stay in the Premier League,” he says.
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