Out of the field
Egypt's footballers missed out on a place in the London Games semi-finals after slumping to a 3-0 defeat against Japan, reports Ahmed Morsy
Egypt's Olympic football team was eliminated from the Games on Saturday following some dreadful defensive blunders. The winner, fast-paced Japan, reached the semi-finals for the first time in 44 years with a 3-0 win over 10-man Egypt before a crowd of 70,772 at Old Trafford.
The Pharaohs' elimination was due to a sluggish defence which failed to contain Japan's energetic forwards, and some slack marking came back to haunt Egypt, as it also cost them dearly in their opening loss to Brazil. Moreover, Saad Samir received a straight red card before the break for a last-man foul on an opponent, leaving Egypt with a mountain to climb as a1-0 goal lead was already held by Japan.
In the first half, Japan imposed pressure early on which earned them a 14th-minute goal due to a defensive blunder from left-back Eslam Ramadan. He was dispossessed by Hiroshi Kiyotake, who darted down the flank before sending in a low cross that inexplicably caused mayhem in the area.
Hastily moving out, goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawi collided with defender Samir, leaving Nagai with an easy tap-in into an empty net. Two minutes later, Nagai was substituted after sustaining an injury.
Egypt launched attacks and pushed forward in a bid to level the score but they could not find a way through a resolute Japanese defence that had not conceded any goal so far.
Again, another similar blunder from Ramadan made matters from bad to worse for Egypt as Samir was sent off four minutes before the break for tugging Manabu Saito, who was about to race clear on goal.
In the second half, Egypt's coach Hani Ramzi tried to refresh his squad by introducing Zamalek's forward Omar Gaber and defender Mahmoud Alaa. Egypt had better possession for large spells in the second half but could only muster some tame efforts. They paid for recurring defensive lapses as Japan put the result beyond doubt with two late goals.
In the 78th minute, Yoshida doubled their advantage and opened his account at London with a header from a Kiyotake free kick in the 79th minute. Two minutes later, Otsu nodded in his second goal of the competition after a leftwing cross from Takahiro Ogihara.
Ramzi said he was proud of the performance of his players despite the loss.
"We performed well throughout the tournament and they (Japan) were a tough opponent to all the teams in the group," Ramzi told the game's post press conference.
"We managed to get through the difficult atmosphere in Egypt as domestic football is currently suspended," he added. It was simply bad luck that they lost the game, Ramzi said.
"I hope the players continue with their superb performance in the coming championships as they are the future of Egyptian football."
Egypt's playmaker Mohamed Abu Treika said: "We are not happy with the defeat to Japan and leaving the London Games. But the Japan national team performed well and they deserve the victory," he told reporters after the elimination.
"We lost concentration from the beginning and gave Japan the upper hand," the star player explained.
"I hope to make use of this tournament to prepare for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as we still have the best to aspire to," said Abu Treika, named Best Player in Egypt from 2004 until 2008.
"The league suspension affected the players' performance throughout the championship," Abu Treika added referring to the impact of the suspension of domestic football in Egypt after the Port Said disaster that left over 70 fans killed and hundreds injured following a game played on 1 February.
"Off course I won't retire from international football," the Egypt and Ahli forward announced.
"It isn't the last time that I will represent Egypt. I am part of the team and I am proud to wear the jersey."
Before Japan, against Belarus in the last game of Group C, Egypt won 3-1 to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time in an Olympics in 28 years.
A dour first half ended goalless but Egypt, who had no option but to win to go through, roared back in the second half to end the resistance of Belarus and finish second in the group with four points, five behind leaders Brazil who beat New Zealand 3-0.
In-form winger Mohamed Salah put Egypt ahead 11 minutes after the restart to take his tally to three goals in as many games, on level at the time at least with Honduras' Jerry Bengston and Senegal's Moussa Konate on top of the scorers' chart.
Goals from substitute Marwan Mohsen and veteran playmaker AbuTreika put the result beyond doubt before Belarus' Andrei Voronkov notched up a late consolation.
Egypt were eliminated by Italy the last time they made a quarter-final appearance, at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Elsewhere, Senegal fought back bravely to send their quarter-final with Mexico into extra-time, but ended up losing 4-2 to bow out of the competition. Mexico looked to be cruising at 2-0 up midway through the second half, but Senegal brought it level at 2-2, before the Central American side finished the job in extra-time.
Marco Fabian hit the woodwork early on for the Mexicans, who then took the lead on 10 minutes as Giovani dos Santos clipped in a free kick which Jorge Enriquez headed in.
Senegal had a number of opportunities to draw level, but a mixture of poor finishing and magnificent goalkeeping Jose Corona stood in the way.
The game went into extra-time but it was Mexico which dominated from the start, though both their goals were from Senegalese defensive areas.
Papa Gueye dallied on the ball on the edge of his areas and Dos Santos robbed him of possession and scored. A poor back pass to the goalkeeper was then latched on to by Raul Jimenez, whose shot was parried and Hector Herrera knocked home the rebound.