Out is Africa
All four African countries, including Egypt, were ousted from the football Youth World Cup, writes Mohamed El-Sayed
Africa had one of its off days after all its four squads paid farewell to the Under-20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The Egyptian footballers, the champions of the last edition of the Africa Youth Cup of Nations, were eliminated from the last-16 stage, losing 2- 1 to defending champions Argentina via a golden goal in the 111th minute.
Also gone were Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and, in the first round, Mali.
Having gathered four points from one draw against Colombia, one win over England followed by a surprising defeat against Japan in Group D, the young Pharaohs qualified for the second stage as one of the best third-placed teams in the six groups.
The four-time title holders Argentina went into the game as heavy favourites after winning all their group games.
The Argentines, who against Egypt played their 50th FIFA World Youth Championship match, have now lost only once and won five times against African opposition. The only loss came in 1999 when they were beaten 1-0 by Ghana.
In Argentina 2001, the host country thrashed Egypt 7-1 in Buenos Aires in the opening match, a humiliating defeat that has remained vivid in Egyptian minds. Still, the Pharaohs managed to take the bronze medal, the best achievement ever in the history of Egyptian junior football.
Playing on Monday in front of 12,000 Egyptian supporters, not to mention the 6,000 who were denied access to the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the Egyptians gave one of their best performances in the tournament and provided the capacity crowd with high-class football.
From the opening whistle the Egyptians did most of the attacking and created numerous scoring opportunities. However, most of the chances that came their way went for naught.
It was a pulsating opening with both teams going at each other from the get-go. Four minutes after kick-off, Egypt had a goal disallowed after Mohamed Abdel-Wahab was ruled offside.
No sooner had the fervent Egyptian fans sat down than they were back on their feet again when midfielder Ahmed Samir skipped past two South Americans and made a solo run down the left before crashing a shot into the side netting.
Five minutes later, a one-two by Ahmed Fatahi and Emad Mit'eb -- who scored a world class goal against England much like Diego Maradona's 1986 spectacular -- could have given the lead to the Egyptians if it wasn't for the alert goalkeeper who collected the ball before Fatahi.
Against the run of play, striker and captain Fernando Cavenaghi silenced the huge Egyptian crowd with a goal in the 24th minute. The River Plate star, who would have stood between the posts if anything had happened to substitute goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa who was standing in for the banned Gustavo Eberto, curled a free kick from the left edge of the box around the Egyptian wall, beating giant Ikrami who dived late because teammate Mohamed El-Zayyat jumped in front of him at that moment the shot was taken in an attempt to clear the ball.
In the 42nd minute, Egyptian pressure bore fruit when midfielder Rida Metwalli dribbled past two defenders at the left edge of the area before the ball went to Mit'eb who was brought down by Barbosa. The ball bounced handsomely to Metwalli who sent it into an empty net.
Two minutes after the restart, Metwalli could have fired the Egyptians ahead if his header over the advancing goalkeeper had been more accurate. Abd Rabbou, who served as playmaker and provided his teammates with accurate passes throughout the game, kept up his habit of sending powerful shots from long range, though all sailed wide of the woodwork.
Cavenaghi kept the Egyptian defence on its toes all game long, launching several raids on the Egyptian goal.
Both sides resorted to slowing down the game in the remaining minutes, resigned that extra time awaited.
After 22 minutes of goalless additional time, it looked as if it was going to penalties. But Javier Mascherano released the unmarked Cavenaghi, man of the match, with a pinpoint through in the box. The captain's first attempt was saved by Ikrami but he picked himself up to strike the ball off a defender's leg, changing direction into the Egyptian net. The slow-to-react defenders desperately raced back to clear the ball off the line, but it was all over after 111 minutes.
"We were unlucky," said Egyptian head coach Hassan Shehata. "We had chances but we couldn't capitalise in the first half. At the end we were playing for penalties and they caught us out. But I'm proud of my boys. We played four good games."
"We didn't play the way we should have in the first half. They put us under a lot of pressure and it made us nervous," said winning coach Tocalli. "But we were better after the break and got that little bit of luck necessary to win a match. We will see a better Argentina next time."
Burkina Faso, known as The Honest Men, were eliminated by the Canadians at Al-Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. A fine second-half strike from Josh Simpson saw Canada stun previously undefeated Burkina Faso. The North Americans were the only side to take a goal off Burkina.
The Ivorians, runners-up at the Africa Youth Cup of Nations, were defeated by the United States which scored two goals through Justin Mapp and Ed Johnson at Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. The African side had goalkeeper Drissa Toure sent off just before the break. The Americans will face Argentina tomorrow in Abu Dhabi.