4 September 2014

Egypt/Senegal: Pharaohs Launch Revival in 'lions' Den

It's been five years since Egypt last appeared in the Africa Cup of Nations. The Pharaohs are record winners with seven titles in the continent's most prestigious football competition, yet they have failed to qualify for the last two editions in Gabon - Equatorial Guinea 2012 and South Africa 2013.

After achieving an unprecedented feat of winning the title three times in a row at home in 2006, followed by Ghana 2008 and Angola 2010; Egypt were surprisingly eliminated in the 2012. In a group that included South Africa, Sierra Leona and Niger, the latter sealed qualification capping one of the all-time surprises in the history of the tournament. Egypt's failure to qualify for the first time since 1978 had cost iconic coach Hassan Shehata who guided the Pharaohs to the historic treble his position.

A year later it was even a bigger blow for the Pharaohs who bowed out from the qualifiers first round after a shock defeat to minnows, Central African Republic. After failing to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, falling at the final hurdle to Ghana, American Bob Bradley was axed and Shehata's former assistant Shawky Gharib was named for the post.

Gharib has supervised the Pharaohs in three friendly matches since taking over the reins but is yet to guide them in a full international game. The former midfielder's first mission will be away to Senegal in Dakar on 5 September 2014. Both sides are in Orange Africa Cup of Nations - Morocco 2015 qualifications Group G besides Tunisia and Botswana who meet in the former's capital, Tunis 24-hours later.

It will be the second time for the Pharaohs to lock horns with Teranga Lions in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. In 1997, the two teams were drawn in the same group in the journey for the continental tournament in 1998 in Burkina Faso.

After a goalless draw in Dakar, Egypt managed a 2-0 win at home, before going all the way to win the prestigious continental title for the fourth time in 1998.

Both sides have met four more times in the Africa Cup of Nations final tournament with each side winning twice. Egypt lost 1-0 at home in 1986 before achieving victories in 2000 and 2006. In between Senegal managed a lone goal win in 2002.

Five days after their group opener in Dakar, the Pharaohs will renew their rivalry with fellow North Africans, Tunisia at their favourite Cairo International Stadium. Egypt has locked horns with Tunisia three times before in the AFCON qualifiers.

In 1977, after a 2-2 draw in Cairo, Tunisia won 3-2 in the reverse fixtures. Six years later, Egypt emerged winners 1-0 on aggregate to qualify for Cote D'Ivoire 1984 edition.

The North African giants' were drawn in the same group during the Senegal 1992 qualifiers but both games ended with the same score, 2-2, qualifying ahead of Chad and Ethiopia for the final phase.

The Pharaohs have faced the Carthage Eagles twice at the continental showpiece finals. Tunisia won by a lone goal in 2000 while the Egyptians reversed the same score two years later.

Egypt is to face Botswana in a double header on 10 and 15 October, with Senegal and Tunisia facing at the same dates.

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