African Cup of Nations - 5 players to watch out for - Egypt
The 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) will mark the return of the most successful side in the competition, Egypt, after a long gap of seven years. The Pharaohs last made it to the finals of the AFCON in 2010 when they captured the title for the third time on the trot.
Egypt have qualified for the finals of the AFCON a record twenty-two times and have won the title a record seven times. However, a bad run for the national side coupled with the political crisis of the Arab Spring Port Said stadium disaster which was the country’s biggest disaster in their football history and a decline in the income for top clubs saw the country fail to qualify for the 2012, 2013 and 2015 finals.
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However, this time under the tutelage of Argentine Hector Cuper, known for his time with Spanish club Valencia where he took the club to back-to-back Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001, the Pharaohs have qualified for the finals in Gabon. Egypt’s history in the competition itself makes them one of the favourites and the management staff and players have been vocal about their desire to lift the coveted trophy.
The final 23-member squads have been announced and Egypt have a good group of players, including a few with European pedigree, who can propel the side to national and personal glory.
Here, let us take a look at the 5 players to keep an eye out for in the tournament.
#5 Essam El Hadary
The soon-to-turn 43-year old goalkeeper is not just one of the oldest players in football, but he will also become the oldest player to play in the history of the AFCON if he starts in a game for Egypt. The previous record is held by fellow Egyptian Hossam Hassan who set the record in 2006 when he played for the Pharaohs at 39 years of age.
The veteran goalkeeper was a part of Egypt’s consecutive triple win in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Hadary remains an integral part of the side’s quest for 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification and is nearing 150 caps for the country. It will be interesting to see whether he breaks the oldest player record at the AFCON along with how good he remains at this age in a major tournament.