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Egypt fail to qualify to AFCON for third consecutive time
The first half witnessed some good football from the Egyptian side with an early goal from Salah in addition to some other decent chances, however the Eagles of Carthage responded with two goals from Chikhaoui and Khazri to prevent the Pharaohs from qualifying to the Africa Cup of Nations for the third consecutive time.
The Egyptian national team entered the match with a revived chance of qualifying after Congo had snatched the second place in Group A following an unforeseen knock-out of 2013 AFCON Champions Nigeria, who drew 2-2 with South Africa, leaving Egypt with just DR Congo’s record of nine points to beat in order to qualify.
Egypt went into the match knowing that they needed to get a win over Tunisia with a goal difference of two or more. Gharib made four changes to his starting XI after being blighted by several injuries following the poor performance against Senegal in Cairo earlier in the week, hoping to snatch a win in this crucial encounter.
Egypt XI (4-3-2-1): Essam El-Hadary; Sabry Rahil, Ali Gabr, Mohamed Naguib, Ahmed Elmohamady; Ahmed Fathi, Hossam Ghaly (Momen Zakaria), Mohamed El-Nenny; Mohamed Salah, Walid Soliman (Ahmed Hammoudi); Khaled Kamar (Emad Meteb).
Tunisia XI (4-3-3): Aymen Mathlouthi; Hamza Mathlouthi, Aymen Abdennour, Syam Ben Youssef (Alaeddine Yahia), Ali Maaloul; Hocine Ragued, Ferjani Sassi; Wahbi Khazri; Yassine Chikhaoui, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Hamza Younés (Amine Chermiti).
The game got under-way with Salah missing the target two and a half minutes following the kick-off after passing the keeper and shooting into the outside of the net of an open goal, Salah corrected his mistake in the 15th minute after volleying Walid Soliman’s lobbed pass into the back of the net giving Ayman Mathlouthi no chance – the Chelsea winger’s 21st international goal.
It all went the Egyptians’ way, keeping possession until the 20th minute which saw the first effort from the Tunisians by the reverse fixture’s goalscorer Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, where he was denied by an acrobatic save from El-Hadary. Ben Youssef’s shot gave the Tunisians some confidence after the shock start and they started to pill pressure on the Egyptian side without causing serious problems.
The game went lively afterwards without any clear-cut chances created from either sides. In spite of being on the back foot, the Egyptian side looked solid and the players tried to catch one of Salah’s runs. The final ten minutes of the first half went very aggressive from both sides committing a lot of fouls with three players getting booked during that period.
Just seven minutes into the second half, Yassine Chikhaoui scored the equaliser for Tunisia after exploiting a horrific mistake by Ghaly and the Egyptian defence putting the home side level.
The Tunisians pressed the shaky Egyptian team and came close to scoring more than once, with their most notable chance coming from the unmarked Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, who missed from the 6 yard box from Khazri’s superb cross.
Elmohamady made an excellent foray from the right flank passing two Tunisian players and sending a low cross which was wasted by Soliman, who seemed to have been more interested in getting a penalty rather than putting the ball into the net.
Gharib made a double substitution as Momen Zakaria and Ahmed Hamoudi replaced Ghaly and Soliman respectively. Another big chance was wasted by the Tunisians in the 70th minute after Ben Youssef’s shot went wide following a scramble in the box.
Khaled Kamar had his first effort of the match late into the second half with a low shot which went slightly wide. Meteb came on for Kamar to end a poor performance by the Zamalek striker.
Khazri then killed any hope for Egypt by converting a world class free-kick past Essam El-Hadary with less than ten minutes to go to ensure that Egypt will miss their third consecutive AFCON following their triumphs in the three editions before that.