Few would dispute Hassan Shehata’s standing as the greatest Egypt coach of all time, and perhaps even as the greatest coach in the history of African football. The former Zamalek forward sealed his place in the annals of the game by leading the Pharaohs to three consecutive CAF African Cup of Nations titles from 2006 onwards.
That said, his distinguished career has not been without disappointment – his narrow failure to steer his charges to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ being a prime example. After posting exactly the same record as Algeria in their qualifying group, the two teams contested a play-off on neutral soil, which Les Fennecs won 1-0 at the end of a tense game which will live long in the memory.
A controversial figure in his homeland, Shehata has grown used to being both idolised and criticised. Many saw Egypt as Africa’s most likely candidates to reach the semi-finals in South Africa and thus become the first ever African team through to the last four. But despite their decade-long continental dominance, fate determined otherwise. Notwithstanding that disappointment, the Pharaohs still went on to retain their African crown in January.
FIFA.com brings you a selection of his statements from down the years, illustrating the straight-talking nature of this legendary coach.
"We can’t allow ourselves to fear Brazil as our opening opponents because, if we go into our first game with that attitude, it will have an effect on our following matches. We’re not going to South Africa to make up the numbers; we’re going there to defend Egypt’s reputation and prove we deserve our place among the big teams and that we’re a competitive side.”
Speaking ahead of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, which Egypt qualified for as 2008 African Cup of Nations champions. Brazil would beat them 4-3 in the opening match.
"Personally, I think the game against Cameroon was the most difficult one, except perhaps for the final against Ghana. [Ghana] are a team with lots of good players and very good technique. It’s no accident they reached the final.”
Explaining which encounter tested his charges the most at the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola.
"I forgive Gedo. Sure, his level dropped a lot after the African Cup of Nations, but you need to understand that he became a star overnight and his life was turned upside down.”
On the loss of form of Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagui after the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola.
"We’re going to arrive early at Wembley to make the most of this historic monument.”
Speaking before the friendly against England in March, which England won 3-1.
"England are a great side. For me, they’re one of the five best teams in the world. Their players are among the very best and [Fabio] Capello is one of the greatest coaches on the planet.”
On the England team.
"I’m sad to have had to turn down Nigeria’s offer. It would have been a chance for an Arab coach to lead an African team at the World Cup. At the same time, though, I’m happy to see that the Egyptian Football Association want to keep me and refuse to let me go.”
After being offered the job of coaching the Super Eagles at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
"Relations between Egypt and Algeria have always been good. We’re brothers and we’ll remain that way with the help of the Almighty. A football match isn’t going to make us forget that and spoil everything between us.”
On the situation between Egypt and Algeria during qualifying for South Africa 2010.
"Saadane is a great coach and I respect him a lot. He’s like a brother to me and I confess that I still don’t understand this decision. How can you part ways with a coach of his calibre?”
On the dismissal of former Algeria coach Rabeh Saadane.
"As for Ahmed Hossam and the others, the coaching staff expects every player to be in top form to merit selection, knowing that all eyes will be on them. It bothers me to see certain players cry off with feigned injuries, however. We won’t be picking those players any more because they don’t deserve that honour. For me, they’re the only losers here.”
On players who failed to join up with the Egypt team.
"We deserved this win against a very good team. The goal of these friendlies is to introduce new blood. We really needed this victory after a recent run of poor results which was unworthy of an Egypt team.”
Speaking after the friendly against Australia in November, which Egypt won 3-0.
"I ask the media and the public to support the team as we prepare to play a difficult African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in Cape Town. We need a win.”
Appealing for support ahead of a qualifying game for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
"Some are saying that I use magic and that all my results come from that. If that’s true, explain why I didn’t qualify for the World Cup? It’s just superstition.”
On rumours that he has dabbled with astrology and sorcery.
"Aboutrika is doing his best to regain top form and everyone should support him in that, but even if the players’ standards started dropping and you wanted to ask them to retire, that’s not the way to go about it. These are very experienced players. Guys like Wael Gomaa, Aboutrika and Ahmed Hassan bring a lot to the team.”
On Mohamed Aboutrika’s loss of form and calls from the public for the veterans to retire.
"We’ve got into a habit of losing one match every year. This year, that match was the one against Niger. With the help of God, we won’t lose any more games this year. Last season, we lost against Malawi and do I need to remind you what happened next? We qualified for the African Cup of Nations and won it.”
Speaking after the loss to Niger in African Cup of Nations qualifying this year.
"Yes, we’re going through a rough patch right now. We’re playing with 75 per cent of the team out. We’re in a rebuilding phase. At least, with the difficulties we’re having, we’ve given some free publicity to a few forgotten teams.”
On Egypt’s disappointing results during qualifying for the 2012 African Cup of Nations.