YAOUNDE: Egypt qualified for the knockout stage at the African Cup of Nations on Wednesday and put a stop for now to the run of surprise results that has shaken the tournament over the last few days.
Egypt saw off Sudan 1-0 in their final Group ‘D’ game in Yaounde, confirming their place in the round of 16 after qualifying second in the group behind Nigeria.
Defender Mohamed Abdelmonem headed home a corner on 35 minutes after a period of sustained pressure from Egypt, a result which sent five other countries including Ivory Coast through as well.
Nigeria won 2-0 against Guinea-Bissau in the other group game, having already qualified for the last 16 as group winners, leaving Egypt to face the winners of Group ‘E’ in the next round, and a potential clash with the Ivorians.
Nigeria had second-half goals by Umar Sadiq and William Troost-Ekong and are the only team to come through the group stage with three wins. The goals delighted interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, who jumped off the bench and threw his arms in the air.
Eguavoen is due to give up the coaching duties after the African Cup but there might just be calls for the former African Cup-winning captain to stay if Nigeria keeps winning with him as coach.
Egypt would no doubt have had nerves jangling after seeing the fate of some of their fellow former champions in Cameroon.
Defending champions Algeria were beaten 1-0 by Equatorial Guinea on Sunday in a result that seemed certain to be the shock of the tournament until four-time winner Ghana’s jaw-dropping elimination at the hands of tournament debutant and tiny island nation Comoros on Tuesday.
But Abdelmonem’s header sent the Pharaohs through and eliminated Sudan, and also saw Ivory Coast, Mali, Gambia, Malawi and Cape Verde qualify without kicking a ball.
“I think Egypt deserved to win this game without any doubt given the opportunities we created and the football we played,” said Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz. “Our sin was not to score the second goal. If you score the second goal the game is finished. I will say it very clear, if I’ll be able to win all the games 1-0 till the end I will be happy.”
Egypt’s victory guaranteed Cape Verde and Malawi will qualify as two of the four best third-placed sides.
Ivory Coast lead Group ‘E’ with four points and can finish no lower than third regardless of their result against reigning champions Algeria in their final group game.
The same applies to Gambia and Mali in Group ‘F’. Both nations have four points from two games.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022