A stoppage-time own goal by Egyptian captain Amr El-Solia saw the Eagles of Carthage book a place in the final against neighbors Algeria.
There was more drama and excitement in the semi-finals of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup Wednesday as Tunisia defeated Egypt 1-0 at the 974 Stadium in Qatar with a late, late winner.
Tunisia won thanks to a 95th-minute own goal from Egyptian captain Amr El-Solia. It was no surprise that the decisive moment came via a set-piece. The Carthage Eagles had 10 corners to Egypt’s one and, as they struggled to create clear chances in open play against their North African rivals, they had plenty of chances to get their eye in when it came to putting crosses into the area.
Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz can be a prickly character and is never afraid to speak his mind. The former Real Madrid boss blasted the referee for damaging his players psychologically. In the second half, a penalty was awarded to Tunisia after referee Alireza Faghani ruled that Ahmed Hegazi had bundled over Mohammed Ali Ben Romdhane in the area.
The Iranian official was advised by VAR officials to go and consult the pitchside monitor. After just a quick look, he reversed his original call, and rightly so.
“How can a referee damage my team psychologically with a penalty,” Queiroz said immediately after the game. “With a decision that everybody in the stadium knew it wasn’t a penalty.
He damaged my team psychologically. I hope FIFA make a good analysis about how he refereed this game.”
This was Egypt’s first defeat in 19 games, since their elimination from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and while it surely hurts, there can’t be too many complaints, even if the timing and the nature of the goal were cruel.
Tunisia had more possession but the Pharaohs had real chances to win the game before the late, late drama. The best came with 15 minutes remaining when Mostafa Fathi shot over from close range just as teammate Marwan Hamdy was about to have an attempt of his own.
There were not enough chances created, however. Egypt were very well-organized, worked hard and were hard to beat, but they needed more spark going forward. There were injuries leading up to the game and, of course, the team missed Mohamed Salah, one of the best players in the world, but Egypt still stopped Tunisia from having any real clear chances in open play and that is another big plus to take from the Arab Cup.
It is natural that there was a huge disappointment at losing a semi-final in a tournament but, before it all started, Queiroz was clear that the Arab Cup was about getting ready for the Africa Cup of Nations in January and the final round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers. In that sense, the tournament was a big success for Egypt and they will now have another competitive game — and it will be a good one against the hosts Qatar.