Egypt coach eyes third title

Shehata is one win away from African record after the Pharaohs power to Nations Cup final.

    Algeria's red-carded Rafik Halliche has words with Shehata after their fiery semi [AFP]
    Egypt's coach Hassan Shehata is one victory away from becoming the first manager to win three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.

    His Pharaohs face the Black Stars of Ghana at the 50,000-seat November 11 Stadium in Luanda in an unexpected climax to the 2010 Cup between countries hit hard by pre-competition injuries.

    Media-shy Shehata, who usually leaves the talking to long-time assistant Shawky Gharib, says his squad will claim a record seventh African title provided luck wears a red shirt.

    "We just need luck. We could have beaten Cameroon by a wider margin but were unlucky," he said, recalling a 3-1 quarter-final victory over the 'Indomitable Lions' after extra time.


    What the man who watches most games leaning against the side of the dugout forgot to mention was luck was very much on the side of Egypt in that showdown against one of the five African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.

    When a free kick from captain Ahmed Hassan struck the crossbar and came down it did not cross the goal line, but an assistant referee ruled it had and Egypt were two goals ahead and en route to the penultimate phase.

    Shehata says teamwork and a lack of reliance on the many stars he can call up have been the recipes for success with his team unbeaten in 18 Nations Cup games spanning four tournaments.

    "The top teams in Africa fear us because of our amazing teamwork. Much is made of those who miss tournaments because of injury, but we do not rely on individuals," he stressed.

    Egypt were hard hit before departing Cairo for Angola with superstar Mohamed Aboutraika, fellow midfielders Mohamed Barakat and Mohamed Shawky and striker Amr Zaki ruled out by injury.

    When the former national team striker replaced Italian Marco Tardelli six years ago in one of the 'hottest' African national team posts, few expected him to survive long.


    Egypt celebrate their quarter final win against Cameroon [AFP]
    Even when Egypt lifted the 2006 Nations Cup after a penalty shootout victory over Ivory Coast, there was no shortage of sceptics who claimed the feat was achieved largely because of home advantage and suspect refereeing.

    But Shehata was a national hero in a country where football is an obsession and he stayed in charge for the title defence in Ghana, where Ivory Coast were hot favourites to succeed.

    Written off as a tired, over-the-hill squad, Egypt launched their defence with a 4-2 thumping of Cameroon, crushed Ivory Coast 4-1 in the semi-finals and defeated Cameroon again in a tense final settled by a late Aboutraika goal.

    Before Angola the media were once more critical of the defending champions, saying they were probably a spent force, full of ageing players in the twilight of their careers, and unable to conjure up the heroics of two years ago.

    Try telling that to Nigeria, Mozambique, Benin, Cameroon or Algeria, the teams who had the misfortune to face the rampant Egyptians en route to the final.



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