Al-Ahram Weekly Online   1 - 7 October 2009
Issue No. 966
Sports
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

With one second left

Egypt lost a heartbreaker to Paraguay and must now pull their socks up if they are to continue in the Under-20 World Cup

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Egypt and Paraguay was a rough and tumble affair that looked headed for a draw before the South Americans scored a late, late winner

With virtually the last kick of the game, Aldo Paniagua sealed a dramatic 2-1 win for 10-man Paraguay over hosts Egypt to go joint-top of Group A in the Under-20 World Cup which Egypt is currently hosting.

Today, Thursday 1 October, Italy will meet Egypt and Paraguay will play Trinidad in the final games of the group phase. Italy have four points from a draw against Paraguay and a win over Trinidad. Paraguay also have four points while Egypt lie a point behind. Trinidad and Tobago have no points following two losses.

The substitute Paniagua's perfectly executed close-range volley after Cesar Benitez had headed the ball across the six-yard box completely stunned the Egyptians, who thought that they had done enough to earn a share of the spoils.

Buoyed by a passionate crowd, Miroslav Soukup's side started positively and served notice of their attacking intentions three times in the opening ten minutes. Mohamed Talaat fired wide under pressure from Francisco Silva, Hossam Arafat headed over when well placed from Afroto's free- kick and Ahmed Magdi also fired wide.

There were nervous moments in the Paraguay defence when Joel Silva spilled Islam Ramadan's powerful shot, but he gathered the ball bravely at the feet of Talaat before the striker had a chance to ram the ball home. Silva also failed to claim a swerving shot from Shehab Ahmed at the first attempt but fortunately for the South Americans, Hossam Arafat's subsequent effort was well off target.

As the half wore on, Paraguay moved into the ascendancy and hit the post in the 25th minute when Gustavo Cristaldo's curling free kick found its way through the wall. Two minutes later, they took the lead when the hosts were caught on the break by a fine solo run from Robin Ramirez, who fed Santander to score his side's first goal of the tournament.

The game changed direction nine minutes before the break when ex-Liverpool reserve Ronald Huth was shown a straight red card for hauling down Talaat, who was clean through. From the resulting free-kick, Afroto curled the ball into the net to add insult to Paraguay's injury.

Adrian Coria's side were forced to make a change at the interval with Silva, the team's captain and goalkeeper, replaced by Gerardo Ortiz after the former had suffered a head injury just before half- time. Yet despite the energy and effort of both sides and Paraguay's numerical disadvantage, the second half lacked any real goalmouth action until the very end. Santander tried a cheeky chip and Afroto clipped the outside of the post, but that was it -- until Paniagua had the last word.

Now the hosts meet Italy in a repeat of their meeting at this year's FIFA Confederations Cup, while Paraguay face Trinidad and Tobago, who are without a point from their opening two matches. Egypt now must hope for a result against the Italians, or else face the possibility of exiting the competition at the opening stage.

A wonderful opening show, replete with high- tech visuals and fantastic light effects, thrilled a capacity crowd that had been gathering since morning at the Borg El-Arab Military Stadium in Alexandria on Thursday 24 September at the start of the tournament. The no-expense-spared spectacle, featuring eight giant screens on the pitch and a huge ball in the middle, opened by showcasing the most important tourist sites in Egypt and then those of the participating countries.

To add to the spectacle, another 24 screens were strategically placed around the ground, providing lighting effects during the ceremony and allowing everyone to follow the event in all its glory. The 80,000-seater stadium, the most modern in all of Africa, is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and safety equipment. It also boasts 136 electronic turnstiles through which 800 spectators can pass every minute. Such was the enthusiasm for the opening game and ceremony that every seat in the house was occupied four hours before kick-off.

The official ceremony began entertaining the crowd early with unscheduled activities. Making full use of the ground's excellent PA system, organisers had fans singing along to popular songs before whetting their appetite with goals from the previous tournament. The entertainment continued as a military band entered the arena at exactly 18:00, before the Egypt team made a fleeting appearance to the delight of the vociferous crowd.

The official opening ceremony began with FIFA President Joseph Blatter thanking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for hosting what is one of the most important events in world football. He also expressed his delight at being in the "fantastic" Borg Al-Arab Stadium and reaffirmed FIFA's desire for Africa to embrace its tournament. "It gives me great pleasure and immense pride to be here at the opening ceremony of this competition. This new stadium is simply magnificent and it is wonderful to see it packed with fans ready to cheer their team on. "As the president of FIFA, it is also an honour for me to know that President Mubarak wants to be here today. That goes to show that football is the number one sport in this country.

"The U-20 World Cup finals have had a beautiful love affair with the continent of Africa for 32 years now. Since Tunisia 1977 many great players have made their name in the competition and I am sure that we will see several new stars born over the next three weeks."

The Egyptian singer Amr Mustafa then took centre stage and entertained the crowd amid an amazing sound and light display and spectacular fireworks. This was followed by a cultural display from the five continents present accompanied by further songs from Mustafa against the backdrop of an illuminated Alexandria sky.

The passionate crowd were certainly in full voice by the end of the ceremony as kick-off, and the night's main attraction, got underway.

Egypt made a winning start to their campaign, defeating Trinidad and Tobago 4-1. Watched by a crowd of over 74,000, the hosts' goals were almost as memorable as the opening ceremony.

In a frenetic first half, it was Trinidad and Tobago who had the better of the opening exchanges. Jean-Luc Rochford's free-kick from the edge of the area was palmed past the post by Ali Lotfi as the hosts started nervously. However, as the half wore on, Egypt's confidence grew and their first shot on goal, through Shebab Ahmed acted as a starting point for a prolonged period of pressure.

Mohamed Talaat and Ahmed both had half chances and Hossam Arafat should have done better when he stabbed a close-range effort narrowly wide. With their next attack, Ahmed Magdi spun past Daneil Cyrus and fired a shot which whistled just past the upright. The hosts' dominance was finally rewarded with a goal when in the 27th minute Afroto powered his way past Sean De Silva and Uriah Bentick to fire the ball between the legs of Glenroy Samuel and into the net.

Egypt could have doubled their advantage five minutes later, but Samuel made a fantastic flying save to deny Talaat at close range. T&T then broke quickly through Jake Thomson down the right hand side. The Southampton man cut inside, beating several Egyptian defenders in the process, and slipped a ball into the path of Rochford, who finished well.

Buoyed by a passionate crowd, the hosts came out of the blocks quickly after the interval and Samuel made a fantastic save to palm Arafat's downward header out for a corner. From the resulting set-piece the keeper's weak punch fell to Arafat on the edge of the box, who made no mistake with a low drive. Then, shortly before the hour mark, Talaat got the goal his efforts deserved when he fired home after Samuel could only parry Ahmed's powerful drive into his path.

Despite the deficit, Zoran Vranes's side never gave up and only the quick reflexes of Lofty and the woodwork prevented them from pulling one back. Substitute Juma Clarence sprinted past Ahmed Hegazy before connecting with a high ball, which the keeper deflected wide for a corner. Then, in the closing minutes, the big striker crashed a shot against the post.

The islanders misery was completed in added time when Arafat struck a curling shot from the edge of the box that flew past the keeper, which had both Blatter and Mubarak, nodding in approval -- and Egyptian fans in delirium.

Arsenal midfielder Fran Merida scored both goals in Spain's 2-0 win over ten-man Nigeria in Group B to maintain La Roja's 100 per cent record in the competition.

Spain recorded their biggest win at the FIFA U- 20 World Cup by scoring eight times without reply against Tahiti at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo. Luis Milla's side netted four in the first half and four in the second to take them to the top of Group B.

In Group C, Germany sent out an impressive statement of intent, racing to the top of group with an emphatic 3-0 win over the US in Suez. Thomas Rongen's side battled bravely and briefly threatened a comeback in the second half, but their opponents' superior finishing left the Americans facing an uphill struggle to qualify for the last 16.

In the other group match, Cameroon closed in on Germany at the top of Group C with a comfortable 2-0 win over Korea Republic in Suez. It was a powerful and assured performance from the Junior Lions, who were rarely threatened by Asian opponents plainly lacking a cutting edge.

In Group D, an outstanding goal from Uruguay substitute Tabare Viudez in the 84th minute condemned England to a 1-0 defeat in Ismailia. The result continues the Three Lions' miserable run in the FIFA U-20 World Cup to seven matches without a goal and eight matches without a win.

In Group E at Port Said Stadium, Brazil got off to a dream start with Alan Kardec scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica. With Argentina absent from the youth tournament, four-time winner Brazil is the favourite, and it quickly established dominance over the energetic Costa Ricans.

In the other Group E match, the Australians were beaten 2-1 by the Czech Republic in a poor technical game in Port Said.

In Group F at Alexandria Stadium, South Africa (RSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) drew 2-2. South Africa were leading 2-0 with under 10 minutes left before the UAE staged a remarkable comeback.

Also in Group F, Honduras defeated Hungary 3-0 at Alexandria Stadium.

(Compiled from fifa.com)

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