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Today at KingFut, we take a look back at the 2012 Egypt Olympic Team that lost to Japan in the quarterfinals. This deep dive will discuss the team at the tournament and the subsequent paths of the individual players. As a refresher, the Young Pharaohs qualified for the 2012 London Olympics by finishing third in the 2011 U-23 CAF Championship.
Before we get too far, let’s take a look at the squad:
Manager: Hany Ramzy
Goalkeepers: Ahmed El-Shennawy, Mohamed Bassam
Defenders: Ali Fathy, Mahmoud Alaa Al-Din, Omar Gaber, Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed Fathi*, Islam Ramadan, Saad Samir
Midfielders: Mohamed Aboutrika*, Shehab El-Din Ahmed, Saleh Gomaa, Hossam Hassan, Mohamed Elneny
Attackers: Marwan Mohsen, Emad Moteab*, Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Magdi
* denotes one of three overage players allowed to participate as per Olympic guidelines.
Game one: Brazil (3-2) Egypt
Goalscorers: Rafael, Damiao, Neymar; Aboutrika, Salah
The Brazilians got off to a blazing start, with former Manchester United star Rafael scoring the opener after 15 minutes. Damiao added the second ten minutes later before Neymar made it 3-0 after half an hour. Aboutrika clawed one back ten minutes after halftime. Finally, Mohamed Salah, who had just joined Basel a month prior, scored the second in the 76th minute. Unfortunately, the Pharaohs were unable to score a third to share the spoils.
Game two: Egypt 1-1 New Zealand
Goalscorers: Salah; Wood
In a particularly frustrating game for the Pharaohs, they had to settle for a point against the Kiwis. Salah scored his first of the tournament, but the Egyptians really should have won this game to take a little stress off their final encounter against Belarus.
Game three: Egypt 3-1 Belarus
Goalscorers: Salah, Mohsen, Aboutrika; Varankow
Talk about a breakout tournament for Mohamed Salah. Three games, three goals. Marwan Mohsen added a second twenty minutes later, before The Smiling Assassin put the icing on the cake. Andrey Varankow scored for the Belarusians in the 87th minute to ruin the clean sheet. This win, accompanied by Brazil’s victory over New Zealand saw Egypt advance to the quarterfinals to play Japan.
WATCH: Egypt’s night of celebrations in Glasgow
Game four: Japan 3-0 Egypt
Nagai, Yoshida, Otsu
Egypt were thoroughly outplayed by the Samurai Blue in this game. It seemed like nothing worked for the Young Pharaohs, and they were deservedly eliminated by the Japanese. Still, a great finish for the Pharaohs, and it’s not hard to see why, considering the level of talent that was in this squad.
Let’s get to the players. For the sake of this feature, we will be ignoring the three overage players: Mohamed Aboutrika, Ahmed Fathy, and Emad Moteab.
Goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy: After sitting out the 2012-2013 Egyptian Premier League season, he was loaned from Al Masry to Cairo giants Zamalek. He then signed a permanent deal with the club in 2014, going on to become their clear number one for years, as well as the starting goalkeeper for the senior national team. With Zamalek, El-Shennawy won the league in 2015 and the cup between 2013-2016 and 2018. Following the last Super Cup win, he was sold to Pyramids FC for $2.92 million. By all accounts, El-Shennawy has had a successful career, representing the senior national team 34 times.
Centerback Mahmoud Alaa ElDin: At the time of the Olympics, Alaa was a Haras El Hodoud defender under Tarek El-Ashry, where he had already amassed 88 caps. He moved to Wadi Degla during their spending spree in 2015 and after spending two years there he moved to Zamalek, where he has been a star player for the White Knights. With 103 caps and 31 goals since joining the club in 2017, he is likely the first name on the team sheet, regardless of the manager. With Zamalek, Alaa has won the Egypt Cup, Egypt Super Cup, CAF Super Cup, CAF Confederation Cup, and the Saudi-Egyptian Super Cup. After a lengthy hiatus from the senior squad, Alaa has returned to the top of the pecking order for center defender for the senior Pharaohs team, and he looks to continue to be an important member.
Centerback Ahmed Hegazy: Forming the other piece of the towering center back duo with Alaa was Ahmed Hegazy, who had just earned a move to Fiorentina from Ismaily. Following multiple injuries and surgeries, he was loaned to Serie B side Perugia in 2015 before joining Al Ahly, where he rejuvenated his career. He was able to stay fit, playing 60 games in two seasons, winning the league and the cup, before joining West Bromwich Albion on loan with an option to purchase. After impressing at the Hawthorns, WBA decided to trigger their option to buy. Unfortunately, the Baggies were relegated that season and Hegazy had another operation, this time ankle surgery. In 2020 WBA clinched promotion and will return to the top flight for the 2020-2021 season. Hegazy, outside of the one other obvious player, has arguably been the most successful member of the Olympic squad. Sometimes lacking in athleticism, he uses his height and exceptional positioning to thwart out attacks before they start. He has battled through severe injuries, subsequent surgeries and rehabilitation, and has continued to be an important member of his squad at both the club and international level, where he has now earned 59 caps.
Left-back Islam Ramadan: I still feel like ‘Milo’ is going to join Arsenal any day now… After a breakout performance in the 2012 Youth Toulon Tournament, Islam Ramadan was linked with European giants, such as Lyon, Benfica, and Arsenal. For reasons unknown, these links never materialised. Ramadan struggled with injuries in the coming years, spending the first eight years of professional football with Haras El Hodood. Ramadan has become a journeyman of sorts since leaving Haras in 2016, plying his trade at Entag, El Raja, Olympic, and now Damanhour SC.
Right-back Omar Gaber: I think it’s fair to call Gaber a right-back, although he can play almost everywhere in the field, which is why he has made such a success of his career. Starting up through the Zamalek youth ranks, Gaber impressed at the Olympics. He made 117 official caps for the White Knights, before the Swiss giants with a penchant for Egyptians, FC Basel, followed up in their interest in Gaber and signed him. At Basel, he won a Swiss League and a Super Cup before being loaned to the newly formed Los Angeles FC in the MLS, coached by former Egyptian national team manager Bob Bradley. He joined FC Pyramids in 2018 and has been a key member of their squad, securing 42 caps since joining. Gaber has been in and out of the senior squad picture for years, earning caps sparingly throughout the year. He will surely feel hard done playing as a right-back at the time that Ahmed Fathy and Ahmed Elmohamady have largely been the preferred options for almost a decade, with Hazem Emam and Mohamed Hany making sporadic appearances. He will continue to be a key member for Pyramids when the league resumes, and I expect his love for Zamalek to send him back to his childhood club before he retires in several years.
READ: Omar Gaber: I’ll return to Zamalek one day
Midfielder Mohamed Elneny: It is well known that Elneny started his youth career with Al Ahly before moving on to Arab Contractors in 2010. Following an impressive Olympic campaign and the suspension of the 2012 Egyptian PL season, FC Basel finally pulled the trigger on signing Elneny. Elneny spent four seasons in Switzerland, contributing to Super League titles in every season, before being sold to Arsenal in 2016. When Arsene Wenger announced his resignation, Elneny wasn’t able to establish himself at the Gunners with Unai Emery, and he was loaned out to Turkish outfit Besiktas in 2019. Despite lack of playing time in London, Elneny has remained a mainstay of the senior Pharaohs, regardless of manager. It remains to be seen if he will have a role at Arsenal under Mikel Arteta.
Midfielder Saleh Gomaa: Saleh was only 18 years old when he made his Olympic debut against Brazil in the 3-2 loss. At the time, he was an ENPPI player, a part of the senior squad at the club when he was only 16. He moved to Portugal’s Nacional on loan from 2014-2015 before being sold to Al Ahly, where he has not been able to secure a starting position for the Cairo giants. Gomaa has seemingly struggled with both injuries and a lack of focus, recently falling out of favor with Rene Weiler. Gomaa was loaned to Jordan’s Faisaly in 2018, but that loan was cut short due to behavior issues. Saleh has just turned 27. With his whole career still ahead of him, if his focus and determination improve, he has the talent to be one of the most important players for the Egyptians.
“Saleh has the technical part, but not the mental one, and the proof of that is the fines he received by the club on more than one occasion. Saleh Gomaa will not have any role with us. I wish him luck with any other team.”Rene Weiler
Attacker Marwan Mohsen: Starting alongside Emad Moteab against Brazil and coming off the bench against New Zealand and Belarus, European sides got a good look at Mohsen, who was a striker at Petrojet at the time of the London games. He earned a move to Portuguese side Gil Vicente, where he didn’t score in 20 league games at the club. He signed for Ismaily one year later, where he had a successful season before being sold to Al Ahly. Despite numerous injuries and manager changes, Marwan has remained a staple in the starting XI of both club and national team since 2018. He has 7 goals in 35 caps for the senior Pharaohs.
Attacker Mohamed Salah: What needs to be said about the Egyptian king? Believe it or not, Salah did not start the first game against Brazil. He did start the remaining three games and definitely did not disappoint, scoring 3 goals in as many games. Salah made his club debut with Arab Contractors at 17 years old and when the Egyptian PL was suspended in 2012, Salah moved to Basel. He took the league by storm, winning the Swiss Super Leauge in both of his full seasons. He scored against Chelsea twice in Europe, eventually leading them to sign him in 2014. His playing time in London wxas sporadic, and he was loaned to Serie A sides Fiorentina and Roma, where he continued to impress before being bought by the latter club. After 34 goals in 83 games total in Italy, Salah was sold to Liverpool FC for €50m in 2017. The rest is history. From GQ to Time to Golden Boots and Player of the Year awards, you name it – he’s won it. Arguably the most famous and popular Arab and Muslim footballer of this decade, everyone knows the story of the Egyptian King.
Centreback Saad Samir: While he did not play a huge role in the Olympic games, Saad Samir has enjoyed a relatively successful career. A lifelong Al Ahly player, Saad has earned 13 caps with the senior squad. Currently rehabbing an Achilles tear, Samir surely has his eyes on a return to Al Ahly and to the national team.
Left back Ali Fathy: Ali Fathy did not play in the 2012 Olympics, as he was the backup for Islam Ramadan, but he did seem to be on the road to success. From the superb youth program at Arab Contractors, Ali Fathy was a promising left back. He left Arab Contractors in 2014 to go on loan to Nacional in Portugal. After one cap, he was then loaned to Entag El Harby in 2015. He was finally sold to Zamalek in 2016. Plagued by injury, he finally got his first cap with the team in the 2019-2020 season. It’s safe to say his career did not pan out. Whether it’s due to injuries or an unfortunate early move to Nacional that stalled his career, Fathy’s promise stalled.
By all measures, the young Pharaohs of the 2012 London Games have enjoyed successful careers. Seven of these players (Ahmed El-Shennawy, Mahmoud Alaa, Ahmed Hegazy, Omar Gaber, Mohamed Elneny, Mohamed Salah, Marwan Mohsen) have established themselves as important players for the senior squad, and eight players (Aly Fathy, Hossam Hassan, Hegazy, Gaber, Salah, Elneny, Gomaa, Mohsen) enjoyed a period of time abroad.
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