Egypt Qualifies for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
Mohamed Salah proved Egypt’s hero, scoring twice including a last-gasp penalty to send the Pharaohs to their first World Cup finals since 1990 following a 2-1 home win over Congo in a dramatic clash on Sunday.
More than 80,000 supporters at Alexandria’s Borg El-Arab erupted into ecstasy when Salah broke the deadlock three minutes past the hour mark as Egypt looked close to realizing a long-held dream, having made the last of their two World Cup appearances 27 years ago in Italy.
However, the atmosphere was subdued and many fans shed tears when Congo’s Arnold Bouka equalized with a half-volley after a defensive lapse with three minutes remaining.
With the clock ticking down in stoppage time and a victory desperately required, Salah invoked memories of Emad Meteb’s famous last-gasp header against Algeria in 2009 when he sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot after substitute Mahmoud Trezeguet was hauled down in the area.
After years of underachievement on the international level, Egypt were finally given something to cheer about after reaching next year’s Russia finals with one match to spare in Group E.
They remained on top of the group with 12 points, gaining an unassailable four-point lead over Uganda. They face Ghana next month in a meaningless match in Kumasi.
The sell-out crowd in Alexandria remained glued to their seats following the final whistle, watching joyous scenes on the pitch as Salah was engulfed by ecstatic teammates.
Argentinean coach Hector Cuper smoothly led Egypt to the World Cup finals, with his blend of tactical nous, patience and discipline proving effective despite stinging criticism of what many deemed his overly-defensive approach.