El Ashwal: Egypt have unforgettable memories from 2016
Abdul Rahman El Ashwal was Egypt's top scorer at Colombia 2016
The 27-year-old is hoping to emulate that success and reach the quarter-finals
Egypt face Uzbekistan, Guatemala and the Football Union of Russia in Lithuania
Egypt’s national futsal team have made remarkable progress in recent years. Having been eliminated in the first round on three of their first four FIFA Futsal World Cup™ participations, they managed to progress to the Round of 16 at Thailand 2012 before achieving their best result at the last edition in Colombia five years ago, with a run to the last eight. At the 2016 tournament, the Pharaohs were drawn in a very difficult group that included eventual runners-up Russia, a strong Thailand side and Cuba. Despite only winning only one match, the North Africans progressed to the Round of 16, where they defeated two-time European champions Italy in what was considered one of the shocks of the tournament.
Forward Abdul Rahman El Ashwal played an important role in Egypt’s achievement in 2016, scoring a hat-trick against the Azzurri and emerging as his side’s top scorer at the event with five goals. "It was a great honour for me to be part of the Pharaohs squad at that tournament,” El Ashwal told FIFA.com. “We have so many wonderful, unforgettable memories that are hard to put into words. "Scoring at the world’s premier futsal tournament is a great feeling. It gave me confidence and courage, especially as that was my first participation at a World Cup.” Discussing his brilliant performance against Italy, El Ashwal said: “I certainly haven’t forgotten that match as I managed to score three times against a big name. We were able to beat them for the first time and thus qualify for the quarter-finals."
With just a month to go before Lithuania 2021 kicks off, the attacker hopes his personal experience will benefit his country. El Ashwal, who played professionally in Iraq after Colombia 2016, going on to win the Iraqi Futsal League title with Al-Shorta, believes the fixture against Football Union of Russia will be the most difficult, although he remains confident that his country can advance from the group stage.
"The Russia match will be tough given the strike power they possess and the fact that they were runners-up last time," he said. "That said, I hope we’ll be able to reach the next round and make the quarter-finals, like we did in Colombia." El Ashwal and his squad may be aiming to reach the last eight in Lithuania, but the player believes the Pharaohs have the potential to go even further in the future, perhaps even attaining a top-four finish.
"Nothing is impossible, and God willing in the future, if there is more interest in the game, I think we’ll go further and achieve an even higher position at world level," he said. "If we meet again after the World Cup in Lithuania, I hope to be able to talk about a new achievement for Egypt, as we aspire to succeed as a united team and shoulder our responsibilities."