Group C Clash: Egypt vs Nigeria

13 Jan

Emad Motaeb scores for Egypt. Photograph: STR/EPA

At last, today was finally time for the first telling clinch match. The first real clash of the titans. The first potential future final! I couldn’t wait and neither could the gathered masses. The Egyptian following was in good voice, especially in the knowledge that they would not be following the Pharaohs further south come June. Out of the World Cup and with nothing to lose, the Egyptians have only history books to write as winning this years Africa Cup of Nations will see them become the first team to have lifted the trophy 3 years running.

In their way, the mighty Super Eagles. A team that boasts a formidable record against the Egyptians having not lost to them in 6 games. The stage was set for a magnificent battle, with 2 of Africa’s heavyweights coming face to face in a group opener. Both teams came into the area confident. One had to wonder, were we in for yet another stunning encounter?

The way the match started, I was sure I wouldn’t be disappointed. Egypt immediately got at the Nigerians, with superstar Zidan pulling the strings and running hard against the defence. The Nigerians stood strong and tried to hit back, but the Pharaohs were making their intent clear. Holding on to the ball and creating chances almost at will, the Egyptians were rocked back and shocked to be a goal down on 12 minutes. With Nigeria’s first real bit of pressure, Obasi skilfully cut inside Fathalla, shifted the ball onto his stronger left foot and hammered a shot across the goal, top left. Al-Hadary got fingers to it but the only thing stopping that one was the net! 1 – 0

Egypt couldn’t believe it, could history be repeating? But the Pharaohs pressed on, in an almost Brazilian fashion, losing none of their swagger, they oozed something that said,

“OK, so you’ve scored. Don’t worry, we’ll score more!”

The Nigerians had grown in confidence. They had a good claim for handball when Yakubu tried a cross and it hit the defender’s hand. It would have been harsh yes, but you’ve seen them given. Taiwo roved down the wing from right back providing quality crosses. Uche came close with 2 connections. The Pharaohs were far from done, there was still time. Zidan replicated Obasi’s effort on the exact opposite side, cutting  on to his preferred right, but blazed the shot wide.

Then came a moment of brilliance and craziness that seems to be plaguing the keepers in this Africa Cup of Nations. The Eagles defence was made to look less than ordinary when a ball was played through… from inside Egypt’s own half! If they were trying to play an offside trap, they really need to re-read the definition of offside! Pacey Moteab raced forward; Enyeama, the Nigerian keeper, raced out of the box and was easily rounded by Moteab’s sweet touch. He finished into an empty net. As a mark of just how far Enyeama had come, Moteab was still outside the box when he shot! I’m sure if Enyeama had stayed on his line he would have at least stood a chance. Yobo was recovering afterall, and Moteab was moving away from goal… even if only slightly. Credit to Moteab though. 1 – 1

The half seemed to be over way too soon, but before I knew it, the players took to the pitch for the second 45. I begun to think they would just cancel each other out as attacks started ebbing and flowing. The first game that seemed to have meaningful end to end action.

Nigeria played a measured game, holding the ball and injecting pace when the time was right.

Egypt with their masterful counter-attacking showed why they are probably Africa’s best fast-breaking side.

The difference told on 52 minutes. Zidan again in the mix held up the ball brilliantly before passing back to the top of the area. If Obasi’s shot wasn’t struck well enough for you, Hassan’s was. An absolute cracker without breaking stride planted the ball in the left corner past the flat-footed Enyeama. A second inspection showed that the shot deflected off Taiwo and the goals committee will delight in calling it an own goal. The Egyptians didn’t care. 2 – 1

Now in their element, it was seemingly only a matter of time before the killer third. Kanu was robbed inside the Egyptian half, and within seconds Enyeama was retrieving the ball from the back of his net again. Shifting the ball quickly and accurately, the Egyptians moved from corner to corner, pulled it back to Moteab who finished with aplomb past the stranded Enyeama, who was badly positioned in my opinion. 3 – 1

It was almost the easiest comeback ever. The Nigerians never really looked like scoring again and played a lot of the match like they were home and dry. The Super Eagles could neither contain nor match the hunger and determination displayed by the Pharaohs. They’re out of the World Cup and they want  this title. They want it bad! The Egyptians looked like the finished article. They were ready for the final yesterday.

I’m sure all the other pretenders watched this and know they’ll have to put in heck of a fight to match this standard, if they’re to stand a chance of halting the Pharaohs. If not, 3 consecutive it is.

Man of the Match: I changed my mind in just about the last minute of the game. It was going to be Ghaly who put in a great shift and probably started a lot of Egypt’s best moves. But if it weren’t for Zidan I don’t think the result would have been the same. Other players, uncharacteristically, selfishly went for glory a few times when he was in great positions. When in similar positions, Zidan either passed to set up a goal, or passed to a team-mate who should have done better. Zidan it is.

Goal of the Match: I’m not sure an own goal has ever been the goal of the game… especially if you score it. But put it this way, I’ve just heard Hassan’s shot was travelling at 101kph! Deflection or not, that’s awesome. Especially for a 35-year-old.

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One Response to “Group C Clash: Egypt vs Nigeria”

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  1. Group C Clash: Egypt vs Nigeria « Out of Africa | Today Headlines - January 13, 2010

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