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VIDEO: Young Pharaohs crowned Champions of Africa
Egypt’s U-20 side won the African Championship for the first time since 2003 on Saturday, defeating the Black Satellites of Ghana – who are the only team to score against the Young Pharaohs at the tournament – in a tense penalty shootout to be crowned the Champions of Africa for the fourth time. Egypt previously won the title in 1981, 1991 and 2003.
Al-Ahly midfielder Hossam Ghaly – not to be confused with the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder – converted the final penalty kick after Ghana’s Michael Anaba hit the crossbar in sudden death as Egypt clinched the title with a 100 percent record at the youth tournament, having won all their games.
Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and Mali – the four semi-finalists at the U-20 African Championship will represent the continent at the U-20 World Cup this summer in Turkey, with Egypt grouped with England, Chile and Iraq in Group E to be played in Antalya.
The game started off in explosive fashion with two goals in the first seven minutes, with Egypt taking the early lead after four minutes with the tournament’s MVP Saleh Gomaa calmly converting a penalty after Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ was tripped inside the box. Jeremiah Arkorful equalized for Ghana three minutes later through another spot-kick following a clumsy challenge by Ahmed Samir.
With Egypt shot-stopper Mosaad Awad – who was later awarded the goalkeeper of the tournament – continuing his impressive form making numerous decisive saves throughout the match, and with a bit of luck to see Ghana’s Arkorful’s curling free-kick only strike the crossbar, the Young Pharaohs who have never trailed at the tournament managed to keep the Black Satellites from going ahead. Although the Pharaohs also failed to capitalize on several goal-scoring opportunities including Kahraba being denied by Antwi in a one-on-one situation just before halftime.
The match went into penalties, which favoured an Egypt side who were whistled by the Algerian fans in Oran city.
Captain Rami Rabia wasted Egypt’s first effort in penalties but Awad kept the Pharaohs’ hopes alive after saving Ghana’s third kick, before the Egyptians went on to secure the African Championship in sudden death.
After the match coach Rabie Yassin said in a television interview: “We have a big team. The tactical aspects and high fitness levels were crucial in helping us claim that win.”
“See for example how my team played against Ghana (in the final) although our opponents had the better possession. Look at how we defended when we lost the ball.”
Egypt national team coach Bob Bradley, who seeks to end the Pharaohs’ 24-year wait for a World Cup appearance, also expressed his delight after the clinical display by the juniors.
“Some of those players will definitely benefit the first team. They will have a big influence because they will lead to a very healthy competition,” Egypt’s goalkeeping coach Zaki Abdel-Fattah, quoting Bradley, told the press.
“I’m proud of the players, who lived up to expectations. That’s why I’ve given chances to some of them recently to play in the first team.”