Golf Croquet World Championships - Semi-final preview
The manner of the defeats of Ahmed El Mahdi and Khalid Younis by Bamford and Clarke was a testament to the skill and resolve of the winners. However, given the quality of the losers, it has also created the most pressurised situation that the Egyptian squad has ever faced in defending its world GC leadership. They will know that the final could well be contested by Bamford and Clarke. El Mahdi is currently regarded as the Egyptian No. 1.
The table below shows that non-Egyptians have often appeared in the semi-finals and that two non-Egyptians progressed to the semi-finals in 1998, 2004 and 2006.
2006: M Nasr v McInerney and S Hassan v Mulliner
2004: A Nasr v Younis and D Bulloch v McInerney
2002: Younis v Salah and S Hassan v Esmat
2000: S Hassan v Mulliner and Esmat v Salah
1998: Younis v Newell and Mehas v Esmat
1997: S Hassan v El-Shobaki and Salah v N Hassan
1996: Younis v S Hassan and Abousbaa v C von Schmeider
However, all three occasions can be distinguished from what we have today.
In 1998, Newell and Mehas played good but non top-ranking Egyptians in the quarters. In 2004, only Bulloch played an Egyptian (albeit Salah Hassan) while McInerney played Derek Old. In 2006, Mulliner played Jackson and McInerney played Jenny Williams. None of these compare to the ejection of two of the best of the Egyptians.
The Nasr brothers are both quite young (in their 20s) and now bear the considerable burden of their GC-playing countrymen's expectations. They are clearly formidable competitors in their own backyard, when playing other Egyptians and when sorting out anyone not in their class. But how will they play when away from home, in front of equally vocal opposing supporters, and against two non-Egyptians with both reputation and strong recent form who have seen off two of their peers? That is the burning question.
Reputations are really at stake today and we should have two fascinating contests - starting about 12 noon SA time or 1000 GMT.