The Pharaohs In Waiting

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 13, 2018 21:11

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The Pharaohs In Waiting

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (August 4th 2011)

Majestic

While Mohamed Ibrahim will claim the plaudits – a hat-trick, and the first by an African, tends to do that – Mohamed Salah was in imperious form, creating chances for team-mates and coming close himself. The only thing missing from his string-pulling performance was a goal to cap it off. Egypt won 4-0, but Brasil trounced Panama by the same score to top the group. Both sides finished on 7 points. Austria and Panama finished with a point each and a trip home.

It could have been very different. Andreas Heraf’s team had a go, possibly recklessly. “They were unlucky not to go ahead in five minutes,” Egypt’s recently appointed manager, El Sayed Diaa, said. Christian Klem curled a free-kick into Egypt’s box, which tempted Egypt’s keeper Ahmed el Shenawy off his line. He delivered a fearsome clout, but not to the ball. Lukas Rotpuller was flattened, but the ball was heading into Egypt’s net. But for a superb hooked clearance by Ahmed Sobhi, Austria would have taken the lead.

The Austrians continued to attack. They needed to win. “They attacked, which gave us the space to counter-attack,” Diaa said. It was clear that this match was destined not to finish a drab 0-0 draw.

Surprise?

The only surprise was that half an hour passed without a goal. Shortly after Sobhi’s clearance Robert Zulj failed to finish off a goalmouth scrap with a goal the Austrians badly needed. They needed luck, but only received the bad variety. “They were unlucky,” Diaa graciously conceded. They lost spirit and it was too hot for them.” The heat definitely favoured the Egyptians, who maintained their industry and flair throughout the 90 minutes.

Ahmed Hassan looked dangerous as he attempted to latch on to Salah’s through-ball. Samuel Radlinger in the Austrian goal had to be alert and was, clearing with Hassan poised. Salah was put through by Mohamed el Neny, but for once Arab Contractors’ prized asset Salah disappointed with a weak finish. And just before half time Andreas Weimann went close as the Austrians continued their frantic search for a goal.

They were 1-0 down then and very unlucky to have conceded. With just over half an hour played, el Neny found space on the left wing and pulled it across for Mohamed Ghazi to shoot from at least 25 yards out. It was heading in at Radlinger’s right-hand post, but took a soul-destroying deflection off Austrian captain Michael Schimpelsberger and looped into the opposite corner. Egypt celebrated. Schimpelsberger had already been booked for a foul on Ibrahim who would grab a second-half hat-trick. Five minutes earlier Salah had made space on the edge of the area, shot across the goal, beating both Radlinger and the far post.

Mago (Magic) Ibrahim

Mohammed Salah substituted for Basel v Chelsea

Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Ibrahim fashioned chances for each other with neat combinations that brought el Neny into the action as well as Hassan. Chances ebbed and flowed. After 57 minutes Tobias Kainz fashioned a chance for himself near the corner of Egypt’s penalty area. It required the expert attention of el Shenawi to thwart him at his near post. Misfortune soon followed as a highly speculative effort by Ibrahim from about 25 yards out headed straight for Radlinger.

The Austrian keeper made a terrible howler, failing to catch or punch it. Instead, hands over his head it deflected in off his left hand. He looked crestfallen. “They were unlucky with the first two goals,” Diaa said. “After that they lost spirit.”

Austrian hearts sank two minutes after the hour as Ibrahim grabbed his second and Egypt’s third. El Neny fashioned a chance for himself, but was thwarted; the ball rebounded to Ibrahim, who still had work to do. Ibrahim cut inside and slotted it past the increasingly forlorn Radlinger. Austria still tried to play, but got no reward and gradually the heat and futility of their task took its toll.

El Neny threatened to extend Egypt’s lead with a rasping shot and while Salah too was denied the goal his performance merited, Ibrahim grabbed his hat-trick on 82 minutes. It simply wasn’t Radlinger’s night. He produced an excellent save from Hussein Sayed’s header only for Ibrahim to score from the rebound. 4-0 eventually reflected Egypt’s domination. “The strongest four teams are Spain, Brasil, Argentina and Colombia,” Diaa said. “It is for you to say that [whether this is the next generation of young Pharaohs]. I want to keep this team together a long time.”

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 13, 2018 21:11