Four Lessons from Egypt’s World Cup Experience

Egypt’s qualification for the World Cup showed that the country is capable of competing at the highest international level. Rather than treating its loss as a failure, Egyptians should view it as a learning experience, one that can guide the country as it seeks to achieve its full potential.

LAGUNA BEACH – Egypt’s national soccer team rode to Russia for their first World Cup finals in 28 years on a wave of lofty expectations and potent fan enthusiasm. They are now returning home having lost all of their games – no small disappointment for a country that takes both soccer and national pride very seriously. Now, a blame game has erupted from which no one seems to be spared.

This may be understandable, but it is not constructive. Indeed, it risks obscuring important lessons that can help not just Egypt, but also other emerging economies, to fulfill their considerable potential – and not just in soccer.

The first lesson is to manage expectations. The run-up to the World Cup was dominated by well-deserved praise for the team’s star player, Mohamed Salah, who was English football’s 2017/2018 double player of the year and has become an idol for millions of Egyptians. Add to that the fact that Egypt had not qualified for a World Cup final since 1990, and expectations ended up far exceeding what the team could realistically achieve in the tournament.

This was all the more true given that Salah recently suffered a dislocated shoulder, which forced him out of Liverpool’s Champions League final against Real Madrid and sidelined him in Egypt’s first pivotal game in Russia, against Uruguay. Yet Egyptians remained hopeful – indeed, too hopeful – and ended up far more disappointed than, realistically, they should have been. Such disappointment can cause expectations to overcorrect in the opposite direction.

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© Project Syndicate

© Project Syndicate

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