In 1934 Egypt became the first African team to play in the World Cup. With only one space reserved for a team from Africa and Asia, the deciding battle to see who would go to Italy was between Egypt, playing for Africa, and Palestine for Asia. As early as the first leg it was clear that Egypt would come out ahead. The first match in Cairo saw the team beat Palestine 7-1, the second match in Tel Aviv, although a closer win of 4-1, let Egypt qualify with an aggregate of 11-2.
The Egyptian team set sail for Italy the following month. The four-day journey was on a ship called the Helwan and was recorded as an enjoyable experience by Mustafa Kamel Mansour, the team’s goalkeeper. The pressure stepped up however when they hit Naples. Their first match there was against Hungary and it was tough from the outset. Hungary showed its strength and experience quickly, and after the first 31 minutes were 2-0 up. Egypt drew on the skills of Abdulrahman Fawzi, and rising to the challenge, he scored two goals in the space of four minutes, putting Egypt soundly back in the game. His third goal, which he scored by threading through the defense, was ruled offside by referee Rinaldo Barlassina; a decision that is still queried to this day.
Although Hungary went on to win the match by two points, Abdulrahman Fawzi had made his mark and stood as the only African goal scorer at FIFA World Cup finals for decades to come. Hungary lost to Austria, who in turn was defeated by host country Italy. Czechoslovakia had come out 3-1 over Germany and went on to play Italy for the Cup on the 10th of June. Italy came out as winner, with a close score of 2-1. Although Egypt was knocked out early in the game, it could come home with its head held high, thanks to the efforts of Abdulrahman Fawzi.
Going forward to 1990, Egypt scored a solitary goal at the World Cup, which took place once again in Italy. Midfielder Magdi Abdel-Ghani converted a penalty in a remarkable 1-1 draw with then European champions the Netherlands, with a power-house team that included players like Marco Van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit.
Late and iconic coach Mahmoud El-Gohary was in charge of the Pharaohs in 1990. Since then, Egypt have had 19 coaches (8 foreigners and 11 Egyptians) in charge of their quest for another World Cup ticket until Argentinean tactician Hector Cuper got the job done.