There is no doubt that Egyptian football is en vogue. The Pharaohs have won the last two editions of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, while Al Ahly have been dominant on the continental club scene.
However, Egyptians long to see their idols return to the grandest stage of all: the FIFA World Cup™. The national team have reached the global finals twice; first in 1934, as Africa's maiden representatives, and then in 1990. And with South Africa 2010 approaching, they are confident they will turn two to three.
Should Egypt qualify, it would be the first time they have done so as reigning African champions. Algeria, Rwanda and Zambia stand in their way.
Egypt were the only side to beat Senegal in in the preliminaries to Korea/Japan 2002, when in the presence of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, a Mido goal earned them victory in Cairo. However, it was the Senegalese who took the group's ticket to the finals. In Germany 2006 qualification, despite losing to Côte d'Ivoire twice, they sealed the Ivorians' place by holding Cameroon to a draw in Yaounde on the final matchday.
And although Egypt are confident, they lack no respect for their opponents. Zambia were the only team to deny them victory during their triumphant Ghana 2008 campaign, holding their opponents to a draw, Algeria have come on leaps and bounds recently, and Rwanda's 3-1 victory over Morocco in the previous round showed what they are capable of.
Hassan Shehata brought the rebellious duo of Zidan and Barakat back into the fold, and both featured in last month's friendly with Ghana, which ended 2-2. However, the Egypt coach must strive to erase his team's defensive defects.
Shehata unveiled his desire to recall Abdelzaher El Sakka, despite the veteran defender being out of the team for two years. With the 35-year-old, Barakat and Zidan, in addition to the talent of Aboutrika and the power of Zaki, Egypt are certainly a force to be reckoned with.