Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1369, (16-22 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Next up: The World Cup draw

Having already qualified for the World Cup, Egypt had to simply go through the motions against Ghana in their last African group qualifier, Inas Mazhar reports


Shikabala announces his return as he opens the score for Egypt against Ghana
Shikabala announces his return as he opens the score for Egypt against Ghana

Though the game was meaningless the Pharaohs took it seriously, as they promised before flying to meet their Ghanaian opponents in the city of Cape Coast. Though the 1-1 result on Sunday meant little, Egypt’s head coach Hector Cuper was determined to prove that Egypt truly deserved winning the group and qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Which is what Egypt is eyeing next; who will they play in the world’s most prestigious sporting event. The draw is scheduled to be held in Russia on 1 December.

It will be Egypt’s first appearance at the World Cup since 1990, while Ghana will miss out after playing in the last three editions.

In the other group match, Uganda and Congo also drew 1-1 in their final clash in Brazzaville with Marvin Baudry giving the home team an early lead that was cancelled just one minute later by Milton Karisa.

With these results, Egypt ended the qualifiers leading Group E with 13 points from four wins, one loss and one defeat. Uganda comes second with nine points, followed by Ghana with eight and Congo two points respectively.

Egypt had already confirmed its qualification to the World Cup after beating Congo 2-1 at home last month at Borg Al-Arab Stadium, becoming the second nation to qualify from Africa after Nigeria. Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal made it to the finals this weekend.

Before the match, Cuper said he would play the game as if it were a crucial qualifier because it would also be a “great opportunity” for his team to play a tough game against a strong team. And as promised, Cuper took the opportunity to try some players who have been out of the line-up for some time and others representing Egypt for the first time: Shikabala, Wegan Athletics Sam Morsi, France’s Lens Karim Hafez, Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel Amr Marei and Ahly’s goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami who saved Egypt from a sure loss in the last minute of injury time.

For the Argentinean coach, it was a chance for those players to gain more experience by playing against a team like Ghana which sought to avenge their last two losses to Egypt. It was a tough and thrilling game and Cuper benefited from testing new and old faces. Shikabala opened the scoring for Egypt 61 minutes into the game from a low drive past goalkeeper Richard Ofori, reminding Egyptian fans of his glory days and announcing the return of the dark leopard, as he gave the Pharaohs a 1-0 lead.

The 31-year-old Shikabala who plays for Al-Raed of Saudi Arabia was called up by Cuper to join training camp after his impressive displays in the Saudi league. The former Zamalek midfielder has been absent from the national team for the last three years. His last performance with the Pharaohs was helping them win the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.

But the stubborn hosts refused to let go and put on more pressure and three minutes later, they levelled the score through an Edwin Gyasi shot from outside the box that took a deflection and wrong-footed Ekrami. Both teams played with determination, each with ambitions to snatch a winner. The Black Stars almost won with less than a minute to go during a goalmouth scramble.

While Egypt missed its superstar Mohamed Salah because of exhaustion and defender Ahmed Hegazi for family reasons, Ghana lacked several regulars as well, including Andre and Jordan Ayew, Asamoah Gyan and Thomas Partey.

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