The economic lessons to learn from Egypt’s World Cup experience

  • Egyptians should view their national team's World Cup exit as a learning experience that can help the country, Allianz's Mohamed El-Erian said in a new Project Syndicate op-ed.
  • "The lessons learned from this disappointment can be applied well beyond soccer," he explained.

Egyptians are mourning the exit of their country's national team from the World Cup soccer tournament following a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia this week.

But there's a silver lining, according to Egyptian-American economist Mohamed El-Erian.

Egypt's goalkeeper Essam El Hadary surrounded by his teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt on June 25, 2018.
Mark RALSTON / AFP
Egypt's goalkeeper Essam El Hadary surrounded by his teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt on June 25, 2018.

Egypt's experience at this year's FIFA tournament — its first World Cup qualification in 28 years — holds important lessons that can help it and other emerging nations fulfill their economic potential, El-Erian argued in an op-ed published on Project Syndicate.

One major takeaway from the team's performance is finishing the job, the Allianz chief economic adviser said.

In Egypt’s final World Cup game, both Saudi Arabia goals were conceded in the stoppage time of each half and the team’s concentration seemed to wane as the clock ticked.

"That does not work in soccer, nor does it work in business, policy-making, or just about any other field. The key to sustained success is never to let up until the final whistle is blown," El-Erian said.

Germany made a similar mistake Wednesday, giving up two goals to South Korea in stoppage time, he added.

Another lesson is that "international engagement can play a vital role in enhancing domestic capital and resources."

Star players such as Mohamed Salah, who have opportunities to play abroad, are able to expand their skill sets and develop a wider understanding of the game, El-Erian said. "This puts them in a better position to improve the performance of the national team in regional and global competitions."

"Greater efforts are needed to seize international opportunities for human-capital development, to repatriate the resulting knowledge and expertise, and to spread what is learned to more people at home," he added. "That is as true for soccer as it is for many other pursuits, from business processes to technology."