One of the most decorated coaches in South American football Hector Cuper left his position as Egypt national team manager under mutual consent. So, where is he right now?
Hector Cuper, the coach who led Mallorca to the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final in 1998 (lost to Lazio) and their best ever LaLiga finish (3rd), the coach who guided Valencia to two consecutive Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001 and the coach who almost ended Inter’s Scudetto wait in 2002 (lost on the final day to Lazio) became manager of Egypt in 2015. The African nation was extremely successful on their own continent, becoming the first country to win three consecutive African Cup of Nations titles during the 2000s. However, their domination on the continent didn’t transfer to the international stage, where they hadn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1990.
All of that changed when Cuper took over. His experience and knowledge helped Egypt reach the 2018 World Cup with relative ease, winning four out of their six group games during qualifying. Mohamed Salah’s 95th minute penalty kick against Congo became and still is one of the most celebrated moments in Egypt’s football history.
📌Let's start with Egypt…
The Pharaohs are back in a #WorldCup for the first time since 1990, and it couldn't have been a more dramatic qualification. Mohamed Salah scored a 94th minute penalty to take the win in their second-to-last game of qualifiers against Congo. #3Sports. pic.twitter.com/W5ynCst1u0
— #TV3GH (@tv3_ghana) June 12, 2018
The team’s expectations coming into the summer’s main sports event were really high, especially considering the group they were in (Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia) and the breakout season their star was having. However, Salah’s Champions League final injury derailed Egypt’s hopes of coming out of the group. They ended up losing all three games and the reputable coach’s expiring contract wasn’t renewed.
He essentially became a free agent and one national football federation stepped up to give him a new one. What is his latest destination? Uzbekistan. Yes. Hector Raul Cuper now manages the 32 million Asian nation which won the 1994 Asian Games as debutants (1994 was the year when FIFA officially adopted the Uzbekistan Football Federation). Not many people know that the Uzbeks have been very close to qualifying for a World Cup.
During the 2014 WC qualification process, Uzbekistan finished tied with South Korea on points, but scored one goal less, thus demoting them to a fifth round matchup with Jordan. They eventually lost 9-8 on penalties and failed to progress to the intercontinental playoff.
During the 2018 qualification process, Uzbekistan needed to beat South Korea in the last group game in order to secure a place in the playoff match against Australia, but failed to do so and ended tied in points with Syria, but with a worse goal difference once again. They’ve been leaving on the edge and the hope is hiring Hector Cuper will finally get them over the hump.
The 62-year-old certainly has the experience and quality to make the dream come true. The initial results have been encouraging. The White Wolves defeated North Korea on Saturday (2-0) and repeated their performance yesterday, getting the better of Qatar (2-0). The upcoming 2019 Asian Cup to be held in UAE in January should provide a stiff test for Uzbekistan and evaluate this team’s progress. There most certainly will be a learning curve somewhere along the way, but with the 2022 World Cup as the ultimate goal, Hector Cuper has been given plenty of time to work his magic and cultivate a winning team.