Egypt qualify after dramatic win

Mohamed Salah scored with a last-gasp penalty to book Egypt a place in the World Cup finals for the first time in 28 years as they edged Congo 2-1 in their dramatic Group E qualifier on Sunday.

 

The Liverpool striker’s two goals put Egypt four points clear with one match left in the preliminary campaign.

Salah had given his side a 63rd minute lead even though Egypt still looked tentative in a tense match with opponents who had yet to win a match at the bottom of the group.

A defensive blunder had let in Salah, to the relief of the home crowd, but Egypt’s dreams threatened to turn into a nightmare when Arnold Bouka Moutou equalised, firing past 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary with three minutes left.

The home side, though, won a 95th minute penalty which Salah converted to secure the trip to Russia.

In the three decades since their last World Cup appearance, Egypt have won four Africa Cup of Nations titles - in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010 - but never taken that form into World Cup qualifying.

They had suffered repeated heart-break instead, with one of the most painful defeats coming in 2009 when losing a bitterly-contested play-off against Algeria.

The desperation to qualify ahead of the game was so great that Egypt's Argentinian coach Hector Cuper admitted he was taking medication for high blood pressure.

The victory gives Egypt an unassailable four-point lead over Uganda in Group E, with one round of fixtures left, while Ghana's dreams are also ended.

The Egyptians become the second African team to reach the finals after Nigeria made it through on Saturday, with the continent's remaining three places to be decided in November.

Should he play next year, Egypt goalkeeper El Hadary could become the oldest player at a World Cup ever.

The record was set by Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who played at the age of 43 at the 2014 World Cup, while El Hadary turns 45 next year.

Earlier this year, the North Africans - whose first World Cup appearance was way back in 1934 - finished runners-up in the Africa Cup of Nations.

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