Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

At last, in Africa

Egypt finally qualified to the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010, Abeer Anwar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

It was due to the Pharaoh’s magical Mohamed Salah that the seven-time champions joined Gabon (hosts), Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon and Senegal for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals after beating Tanzania 2-0 in Dar es Salaam on Saturday.

Needing just a point to qualify for the AFCON finals for the first time after completing a hat-trick of triumphs between 2006 and 2010, Egypt knew that anything better than a 4-0 defeat would be enough for them to reach Gabon, having missed the last three Nations Cups.

Egypt started the game attacking from the first minute but suffered weaknesses in defence which were repaired in the second half.  Tanzania managed their first shot on target in the 29th minute but Elias Maguri’s header was denied by Egypt’s veteran 43-year-old goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari whilst Belgium-based forward Mbwana Samatta also saw his shot deflected off an Egyptian defender two minutes later.

Roma winger Salah broke the deadlock a minute before the break from a free-kick at the edge of the Tanzania penalty area. Tanzania regrouped well and got an opportunity to draw level but Samatta blasted wide from the spot on 53 minutes after substitute Mohsen had fouled Himid Mao in the vital area.

Salah ended the Tanzania dream of qualifying for the AFCON for the first time since 1980, with the second goal finishing a counter move by Mohsen.

Despite the absence of Ahly captain Hossam Ghali, who was left out of the squad by Argentine coach Hector Cuper, Egypt secured the victory which ended Tanzania’s faint hopes of qualifying.

Unbeaten in four matches, the Egyptians topped the group with 10 points, eight more than Nigeria while Tanzania have just a point. Nigeria host Tanzania in the ultimate match of Group G in September.

Saturday’s game in Dar es Salaam was Egypt’s final match in the qualifiers, following Chad’s withdrawal from Group G.

The win over Tanzania will also make Egypt a top-seed side in the anticipated draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which will take place later this month.

Meanwhile, Senegal sealed their place at Gabon 2017 through goals from their English Premier League players Sadio Mane and Mame Biram Diouf, who both scored in a 2-0 win away to Burundi in Bujumbura to ensure they will top Group K.

 The group’s other fixture was a fight for survival with Namibia beating Niger 1-0 courtesy of a 15th minute goal from Peter Shalulile.

Guinea-Bissau are on the verge of their first ever appearance at an Africa Cup of Nations finals after securing a 3-2 home win over 2012 champions Zambia. Zambia now face a struggle to secure one of the best second-placed spots.

Uganda moved closer towards qualification with a vital 2-1 win away to Botswana to move three points clear at the top of Group D. Khalid Aucho scored Uganda’s winner in the 54th minute to give his country hope of going through to the Nations Cup finals for the first time since 1978.

Group C leaders Mali also improved their chance of advancing to the finals with a 3-0 win away to South Sudan. Mali’s victory which moves them five points ahead of second placed Benin who will now play their Group C match against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday 12 June after FIFA conditionally lifted Benin’s ban.

Sierra Leone moved to within a point of reigning African champions and Group I leaders Ivory Coast with a 1-0 win over Sudan in Freetown.

Two goals apiece from Thamsanqa Gabuza and Keagan Dolly gave South Africa an emphatic 4-0 win away to The Gambia.

In Group H, there was an eventful match in Kigali where second placed Rwanda lost 3-2 to visitors Mozambique who sit bottom of the group.

In Group F, Cape Verde boosted their hopes of qualifying as one of the two best runners-up with a 2-1 win away to Sao Tome e Principe. Morocco have already qualified as Group F winners. The final round of group matches will be played in September.

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