Egypt: How the Pharaohs set the stage for World Cup qualification
With the group stage of African 2014 World Cup qualifying at its end, we look match-by-match at Egypt’s progress, with the Pharaohs now being the only team in world football maintaining a perfect qualifying record ahead of the final round for next year’s edition of the prestigious tournament.
Egypt 2-0 Mozambique
We start our journey on the 1st of July 2012, in an eerily empty Borg El-Arab stadium in Alexandria. Egypt, drawn in a group with Guinea, Zimbabwe and Mozambique began their quest to the 2014 World Cup playing in the empty stadium due to the unstable period the country is now experiencing, with security not willing to secure the game for fans. The 80,000+ capacity stadium may have been empty, but as Bob Bradley had mentioned, if every single Egyptian could be at the stadium supporting the team they would have been.
This obstacle didn’t deter the Pharaohs from opening their campaign with a victory, easing to a 2-0 win over the visiting opponents from Mozambique. The goals came in the 55th and 62nd minute respectively, with the opener being scored by Zamalek defender Mahmoud Fathallah, who managed to latch on an Ahmed Hegazy to slot the ball in at the back post after a brilliant ball into the box from Hosni Abd-Rabo. Mohamed Zidan got in on the act, rather fortunately, about 8 minutes later, taking an Ahmed Temsah through ball into his stride before powering a left-footed strike into the upright, which deflected, hit the Mozambique keeper and went back into the net. 2-0, three points from a possible three, the Pharaohs begun brilliantly.
Guinea 2-3 Egypt
The Pharaohs next game occurred on the 11th of June 2012, with a tough away trip to Guinea on the cards. As it’s known, qualifying is extremely hard on every continent, but in Africa, it’s always that little bit harder, with extremely hostile conditions, as well as some pretty appalling pitches to match whilst on away trips. And this was one of those occasions. A 14,000 capacity crowd at the Stade Dum 28 September Stadium in Conakry, Guinea was Egypt’s next destination, with an extremely entertaining match ending up in another win for the Egyptians. Guinea managed to hit the lead in the 20th minute, with a penalty being converted by Abdoul Kamara to send the hosts into raptures. But the Pharaohs had other ideas, with Abou-Treika scoring a brilliant double, turning a Temsah fizzer into the net in the 58th minute and converting a penalty in the 66th minute, one which resulted in a red card for Guinea. The excitement didn’t stop there, with Bangoura scoring for the hosts in the 88th minute to make it 2-2 and almost seal the draw. However, a minute over the 3 minutes of added time at the end of the 90, a Mohamed Zidan through ball was collected by the speedy Mohamed Salah, who opened up his body brilliantly to slot the ball into the top corner of the net and give Egypt a last gasp victory. Two games, six points. Perfection.
Egypt 2-1 Zimbabwe
Next on the chopping board was Zimbabwe. Another home match at the Borg El-Arab stadium saw fans being allowed into the stands to support their national team, be it only a limited amount. In front of a 10,000 strong crowd, Egypt continued their perfect start to the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, again leaving it late to down Zimbabwe with a 2-1 win. The first goal of the game was Egypt’s, with a brilliant two step free kick from Hosni Abd-Rabo being too hot to handle for the Zimbabwe keeper in the 65th minute. The match was all square 10 minute later though, with Musona scoring an absolute belter of a goal for the visitors after some slack defending from the hosts, sending the ball into the top corner of the net at lightning speed with a volley from outside the box. But to the rescue came Egyptian talisman Mohamed Abou-Treika, converting an 88th minute penalty after Mohamed Salah was brought down from behind in the box to give the Egyptians another win. Three from three.
Zimbabwe 2-4 Egypt
With the Pharaohs now in full flight, they played their next match away from home on the 9th of June 2013. An away trip to Harare, Zimbabwe. Keeping in tradition with the last two games of the qualifying campaign for the Pharaohs, the game was anything but boring. The Pharaohs were ahead in the 5th minute, as a brilliant counter attacking move saw the speedy Salah sprint down the right wing. Salah then played a ball into the box which was left by Fathi to roll to Abou-Treika, who scuffed his shot into the net. Zimbabwe were level soon after, with some questionable defending from Mahmoud Fathallah leaving Musona one on one with Ekramy to finish. Egypt headed into the break in front though, with an Ekramy long ball reaching Salah, who then controlled brilliantly and slotted the ball past the Zimbabwe keeper in the 40th minute. Salah then doubled his tally after the restart, with arguably one of the best goals of the qualifying campaign. Picking up the ball in the centre circle, Salah sped his way through the scrambled Zimbabwe defence, brilliantly nutmegging his opponent in the process, and evading a challenge at full speed to go on on one with the keeper. He then gave the ball a deft flick with the outside of his left foot to send the ball into the top left corner of the net and stun the home crowd and put Egypt 3-1 up. The two goal lead lasted another five minutes, with Zimbabwe equalising in the 81st minute after a header was mishandled by Ekramy, who dropped the ball in the net. Man of the match Salah had another trick up his sleeve two minutes later, connecting first time with an Abou-Treika pass to slot the ball under the on coming keeper and into the bottom left corner of the net. 4-2 it finished, four from four.
Mozambique 0-1 Egypt
Egypt’s last away game of the group phase then saw them visit Mozambique. Playing on an absolute shocker of a pitch, the Pharaohs managed to grind out a 1-0 victory to secure their spot in the next and final phase of World Cup qualifying. The only goal of the game came in the 40th minute, with a brilliant piece of one touch play resulting in Mohamed Salah rolling the ball past the outstretched hand of the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. The match wasn’t without its drama in the second half, with Sherif Ekramy putting in a shift of pure class, pulling off a number of crucial saves to keep the Pharaohs 1-0 up. Five matches down, five wins, one match to go.
Egypt 4-2 Zimbabwe
Game six of the qualifying phase was essentially a dead rubber, with Egypt already having secured top spot and ultimately securing their ticket to the knockout phase. Guinea on the other hand, were playing for pride. The match was played in El-Gouna amid heightened security concerns, due to the unstable conditions tearing apart Egypt at the moment. Fans were allowed to attend, albeit only a few thousand. The match got off to a disastrous start in the 4th minute, when Brighton defender Adam El-Abd, playing his first competitive international match, got a touch on a ball that was destined for the gloves of Ekramy to steer the ball into his goals. A calamitous own goal, and a 1-0 lead to the guests. Hossam Ghaly restored equality in the 38th minute, with a love chest down leading to a cool volley into the bottom of the net, leaving the Guinea keeper stranded. Egypt were at it again in the 50th minute, when a handball on the line from Guinea defender Zayatte pled to a red card for the guests and a penalty to the hosts. Abou-Treika, on his 100th cap, finished with aplomb to make it 2-1. The guests managed to get another on back though, with El-Abd mistiming a tackle, allowing Guinea striker Soumah a golden chance which he took cooly to slot the ball under Ekramy and into the net. The Pharaohs were the sharper of the two sides at this point, and made the man advantage count in the 83rd minute when Abou-Treika played one of the balls of the campaign, neatly flicking the ball through the opposition defence to the oncoming Salah, who took the ball into his stride, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball past the desperate defender. The game was sealed 4 minutes later, with Abou-Treika playing a brilliant ball to Amr Zaki, who finished to score his first goal for Egypt since 2009. 4-2, six wins from six.
Egypt now go into the final knockout stage with the perfect record so far in qualifying. Drawn against the Black Stars of Ghana, Egypt’s rivalry with the second most crowned African nation (in terms of continental achievements) is sure to re-ignite. The first leg, to be played in Ghana will take place on the weekend of October 11-15, with the return leg to be played, according to reports, at the Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria a month later on the weekend of November 15-19. Yallah ya Masr!
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