VIDEO: Inexperienced Egypt fall to late draw against Niger
The Pharaohs had already secured qualification to the final tournament after securing 12 points from five rounds, on the top of being the tournament’s hosts after winning the hosting rights in early January.
This lead Javier Aguirre to field an inexperienced starting eleven, which saw three players winning their first international cap, namely Pyramids’ duo Ahmed Mansour and Nabil Dunga, and 20-year-old Amar Hamdi, who is currently on loan at Ittihad of Alexandria from Al Ahly.
Ahmed El-Shennawy started between the sticks for the first time since the 2017 AFCON, with Mohamed Hany, Karim Hafez, and Ali Gabr completing a back four defence line alongside Ahmed Mansour.
Amr El-Sulya and Ali Ghazal played in the middle, while Amar Hamdi, Dunga, and Amr Warda started behind the lone striker, Ahmed Hassan Kouka.
The lack of chemistry between the players showed in the opening 20 minutes of the game and the Pharaohs didn’t manage to create any clear-cut chances until the 27th minute, when Amar Hamdi received a pass from Amr Warda inside the box, before forcing the Niger goalkeeper into a save.
Niger had an instant reply and nearly opened the scoreline after Amadou Moutari whipped in a superb cross to Modibo Sidibé, whose first-time shot hit Ahmed El-Shennawy’s crossbar before going out for a goal kick.
The remaining minutes of the first-half didn’t witness any more action and 0-0 was the scoreline of the first 45 minutes.
Egypt’s first substitution came at the break as Mahmoud Trezeguet was brought in for Ali Ghazal and it didn’t take long for the Kasimpasa winger to prove his worth.
Two minutes into the second-half, Amar Hamdi put Trezeguet through on goal after an excellent pass, and the super sub managed to beat the goalkeeper easily, making it 1-0 to the Pharaohs.
Six minutes later, the hosts were awarded a penalty after Mahamane Cissé was brought down by Ali Gabr inside the penalty box.
Team captain Souleymane Sacko stepped up for the penalty, but failed to beat Ahmed El-Shennawy, who brilliantly denied him to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Aguirre then made his second substitution of the game, handing Ismaily’s Abdelrahman Magdi his international debut after bringing him on for Amar Hamdi.
The hosts kept dominating the game and troubled the Pharaohs’ defence on more than one occasion, and their pressure finally paid off when Amadou Moutari equalised for them in the 81st minute after a corner routine.
Another player made his international debut and this time it was Zamalek youngster Mostafa Mohamed who replaced Kouka moments after the equaliser.
The hosts had two big chances to snatch the full three points in the dying moments of the game, but they failed to make them count and eventually both teams shared the spoils.
Following the draw, Tunisia qualify for the final tournament as the group winners with 15 points, two points than second-placed Egypt, while Niger sit third with five points and Eswatini remain fourth with only one point.
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