The Olympic football team has been disbanded following its loss to Tunisia and the almost sheer impossibility of Egypt going to the Athens Olympics, writes Mohamed El-Sayed
Following the dreadful 3-1 loss to Tunisia in Port Said on Sunday, Egyptian coach Shawki Gharib tendered his resignation -- which was quickly accepted by the football association. Hassan Shehata, who guided Egypt's U-20 team to the second round at the recently concluded World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates, was picked as a replacement.
Gharib's resignation was seen by many as having come late; the loss was the team's third in as many games in a qualifying group that includes Senegal and Nigeria. Three games have been played in the group and three remain. Senegal is at the top with seven points.
Egypt's chances of qualifying in soccer for this year's Summer Olympics are slim but it does have a mathematical chance. It would have to win its remaining three games and hope that Senegal and Tunisia, now with five points, falter badly.
Shehata's U-20 squad will replace the Olympic team in the remaining qualifying games. The Olympic squad thus vanishes after long being considered Egypt's future in football. The team, made up of the country's best young talents, ended 2003 badly when it failed to win a single game at the All-Africa Games in Nigeria, losing all three games it played and without scoring a goal.
Ironically, this was the same team and the same head coach who finished third in the under-17 World Championships in 2001 in Argentina.
The Tunisians scored the opener three minutes after the restart via Ali El- Molhi. He received the ball inside the area and delivered a thumping shot that beat hapless goalkeeper Mohamed Sobhi.
In the 54th minute, the Tunisians extended their lead when Wessam Gomaa delivered a precision header, getting to the ball before Sobhi who came off his line.
In the 23rd minute, Saber El-Tarabolsi ghosted past lumbering defender Mahmoud Mahmoud, slipping the ball between his legs and sending a curling shot with the inside of his right boot that settled in the left side of the Egyptian net.
The Egyptians scored a consolation goal when Wa'el Riyad netted home a penalty in the 35th minute -- the first goal for the team in six matches.