Despite The Pharaohs being the dominant force in African football for much of the past ten years, the World Cup had alluded them. They had come within one game of qualifying for the finals in 2010 and 2014, but politics, a revolution and a series of freak results had scuppered their chances.
A victory at the magnificent Borg al Arab would have finally broken the curse. But a late equaliser from Congo silenced the crowd. Then, in the last seconds, Mohamed Salah won a penalty. Finally, Egypt had made it, and Salah was elevated to almost mythical status. But the story of Egypt’s qualification for Russia 2018 doesn’t begin here. It begins in Cairo, in 1989.