Egypt got back on course to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Saturday with the type of stellar attacking display that fans have been craving. Namely, a 6-0 thrashing of Niger at the Stad El Geish in Alexandria.
The match marked debuts for new manager Javier Aguirre, his staff, and several players.
Here’s how they stacked up:
Mohamed El-Shenawy – 9
The Al Ahly net-minder had nothing to do in the first half with Egypt dominating possession, but made two brilliant saves to preserve his clean sheet in the second half. There was a bit of miscommunication with his new defensive line, however.
Ahmed Hegazi – 9
Shepherded the defense like we’ve come to expect and got forward on set-pieces, even coming close to scoring on a header. He looked to have elbowed his opponent late in the game out of frustration. Even if he was simply retaliating, we’d hope a veteran of his stature would keep his cool.
Baher El-Mohamady – 8.5
Impressive competitive debut for the Ismaily defender. He showed decent speed and physicality coupled with some deft touches. The stage wasn’t too big today, but they’ll only get bigger.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 9
The veteran Aston Villa right-back did everything asked of him in his captaincy debut. Looked sharp, tackled well and sent several pin-point crosses into the box. Not much more to say, and that’s good.
Ayman Ashraf – 9
Brilliant display from Egypt’s present and future at left-back. Scored a goal, didn’t stop running, and sprinted back into defense when warranted. He will undoubtedly be relied upon heavily by Aguirre after a balanced, energetic performance.
Aly Ghazal – 8.5
The Vancouver Whitecaps regular looked natural where Aguirre deployed him, anchoring the defensive midfield and dropping deep as an extra center-back. Ghazal tackled well and ignited the transition from defense to attack. His performance should cement a role for the new staff going forward.
Tarek Hamed – 8.5
The tank was, well, the tank. He didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer on 50/50 balls and even contributed to the offensive build-up.
Mohamed ElNeny – 8.5
The Arsenal midfielder was flawless in the first half, but not quite as active in the second. That is, until putting the icing on the cake with Egypt’s sixth and final goal of the night. He looked to be in his natural position in central midfield and didn’t have to constantly worry about defense, as he did under previous manager Hector Cuper, with Hamed and Ghazal behind him. He did, however, assume a more defensive role when Amr Warda came on later in the match.
Mohamed Salah – 7.5
It’s not every day you see Salah with one of the lowest ratings of the game. But that’s more a product of how well others did, and perhaps because the Liverpool star had two penalties saved. He did still score on the second, off the rebound. His vision was stellar and his passing was incisive. Even when not at his best, Salah was predictably influential and indispensable.
Mahmoud Trezeguet – 5
He won a penalty and was active, but didn’t do much else. He missed two sitters and was slow to make decisions at times in the final quarter of the pitch. Not the best display for a player fans have very high hopes for.
Marwan Mohsen – 7.5
He didn’t look 100% healthy and ended up having to leave the match in the second half. But, he finally had service today as a striker for the Pharaohs, something he was rarely able to say under the previous administration. And he took advantage, scoring a goal and linking-up well with teammates.
Amr Warda – 8
Warda didn’t play long, coming on as a substitute, but he immediately looked more natural in a more central role. Warda was predominantly deployed either as a pseudo forward or a winger under Cuper. But tonight, he was positioned more in line with his usage at Greek side PAOK.
Salah Mohsen – 8
Tough to be too hard on the kid after he scored in his competitive debut, but he had a dangerous missed pass and squandered a wonderful opportunity for another goal. Still, the Al Ahly wonderkid turned a pass from Salah into a finish not every player can execute. He just turned 20 years old and should continue to ascend with hard work and experience.
Coaches – 9.5
Javier Aguirre, Hany Ramzy, Michel Salgado, Tito García Sanjuán and the rest of the staff couldn’t have asked for a better start at the Pharaohs’ helm. The team looked like it had been together for a lot longer than just a few days and showed tremendous chemistry. To nitpick, the only knock we can have on them is that the defense looked slightly uncoordinated at times. Players seemed clear with their offensive assignments but not as much when dropping back. Still, if this is just the beginning, the future should excite Egypt fans.