Under superbly dramatic circumstances, Egypt became the second African nation to book their tickets to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia last night with one match to go in their qualifying group E. Nigeria had earlier ensured their qualification after defeating Zambia a day earlier.
The North Africans took on already eliminated Congo in their last home game of the World Cup qualifying campaign with 9 points from 4 games. 2nd and 3rd placed Uganda and Ghana respectively were on 8 and 6 points respectively having played a game more. This meant a win for The Pharaohs will propel them to Russia with a match to spare.
Liverpool FC forward and the country’s best player in decades, Mohamed Salah put the hosts in front much to the delight of the home crowd, to set them on course for their goal. But Dijon FCO midfielder Arnold Bouka Mouto spoiled the premature celebration in Alexandria when he slotted home a cross from the right in the 88th minute. Many fans were even seen weeping in the stadium.
But a twist in the tale was brewing as the 7 time African Champions were awarded a penalty after Beranger Itoua brought down Mahmoud Ibrahim Hassan better known as Trezeguet inside the penalty box in the 93rd minute.
The mighty responsibility of slotting the ball home (under enormous pressure) fell onto Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian superstar stayed true to his responsibility and did his duty.
The 86000 crowd at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria went absolutely berserk. This was the first time in 28 years that the land of Cleopatra will be taking part on the FIFA World Cup, the greatest show on Earth.
Egypt’s qualification meant that their legendary goalkeeper Essam El Hadary is all set to lead the Egyptians in the world cup next year. Born in 1973, the Egypt skipper will be 45-years old at Russia next year. This will make the Egyptian legend the oldest ever player in the history of the game to play at the grandest stage of all.
As of now, the oldest player in the FIFA World Cup is Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón (born in 1971) aged 43 years 3 days when he came on as a substitute for Colombia vs Japan in the final group game at the Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá, Brazil, on 24 June 2014.
Photo by Muhammad غفّاري