Portuguese Carlos Queiroz has a full plate on his hands as he takes over coaching duties of the Egyptian national football team.
Queiroz, who was appointed last week, is to steer Egypt as it winds its way in the African World Cup qualifiers, the FIFA Arab Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN).
In the ACN, which begins in Cameroon in January next year, Egypt will be hoping to add to a continental record-extending eighth championship. The country has not won the trophy since 2010.
The Arab Cup, which is played sporadically, will be played a month earlier and will definitely have some heated encounters between Arab countries who are tough rivals on the pitch.
But for now, it is the World Cup qualifiers that Queiroz will be concentrating on the most, for it was the qualifiers that brought him his new job.
Egypt is currently on four points in Group F after a win and a draw, two points behind group leaders Libya. While there are still four games left for each of the four teams in the group, Egypt pushed the panic button after only the second game, a 1-1 draw with Gabon.
Even though it was an away game and Egypt was playing with a man down, and even though they had won their first group game, 1-0 against Angola, Egypt’s football authorities felt a drastic change was needed fast, seeing the country had been playing aimlessly and playing forgettable football.
So, the association last week sacked Egyptian coach Hossam Al-Badri, and 48 hours later had installed Queiroz.
Despite the challenges ahead, Queiroz wrote on Twitter: “It is with pride, gratitude and ambition that I accept the honourable invitation from the Egyptian FA to be the national team coach.”
Queiroz’s first big test will be back-to-back home and away games with Libya which will go some ways to deciding the African group winner and an eventual spot in the World Cup next year in Qatar.
Queiroz will have three Portuguese assistants in addition to Egyptians Diaa Al-Sayed, Mohamed Shawki and famed shot stopper Essam Al-Hadari as goalkeeping coach. Queiroz will need all the help he can get with time running out before the Libyan duels. The Egyptian league is also in recess, preventing the search for quality players.
Queiroz comes with a stacked CV. He won the U-20 World Cup with Portugal at the start of his managerial career in 1989 and 1991.
He is best known for working with legendary coach Alex Fergusson for four seasons at Manchester United. He also coached Real Madrid for a single season in 2003.
Queiroz has been hired by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Colombia.
He led Iran to two consecutive World Cups, 2014 and 2018.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly