Kick-Off: Wednesday, 17:30 GMT, November 18, Khartoum Stadium, Khartoum, Sudan.
The Pharaohs Have The Momentum
Needing a two goal margin at minimum to force a play-off, Egypt went into their showdown against Algeria on Saturday and got just that, showcasing an incredible amount of resilience and determination on the way to achieving their vital result.
After a qualifying campaign during which they failed to reach the heights they scaled over the last four years in continental competitions, the Pharaohs’ performance at the Cairo International Stadium was a display of why they were group favourites to begin with and the manner of their victory will surely have given them an immense boost ahead of Wednesday’s game in Sudan.
Now Hassen Shehata’s men have the benefit of going into a game where they will be on equal footing with their rivals from the starting whistle and will not have to play catch up like they did this weekend.
Thus, the key for the Egyptian tactician will be to instill the same amount of urgency in his team this time around instead of ceding control and rekindling Algerian hope.
Meanwhile, though the Egyptians picked Sudan as their preferred venue for a rubber match, they will now have to live with the fact that the vast majority of the locals have apparently chosen to support the Algerians instead of their Northern neighbours.
However, for a team that won its last African Cup of Nations in Ghana, facing such adversity is not something they are not unaccustomed to.
The Fennecs Look To Regroup
Having come so desperately close to qualifying on the back of what would have been an honourable 1-0 loss during which they fought valiantly and wasted some good chances to kill the game, Algeria suffered the heartache of conceding an injury time goal that has postponed and potentially cancelled their World Cup trip.
Saturday’s result means that Algeria now have to overcome one final hurdle in Khartoum on the way to South Africa or be forced to be content with a place at the African Cup of Nations.
Such a scenario will surely be of little consolation to the north Africans considering what they have been forced to surmount in these qualifiers and particularly on their trip to Cairo which was marred with acts of aggression against them upon their arrival.
Now the Fennecs have no choice but to regroup and refocus and it is possible that the fact that they don’t have to wait very long to get back on the field and face the same opponent might be a positive factor for them rather than having a long time to dwell on the golden opportunity they passed up at the weekend.
November 14: Egypt 2-0 Algeria
November 5: Egypt 5-1 Tanzania
October 10: Zambia 0-1 Egypt
September 5: Rwanda 0-1 Egypt
August 12: Egypt 3-3 Guinea
November 14: Egypt 2-0 Algeria
October 11: Algeria 3-1 Rwanda
September 6: Algeria 1-0 Zambia
August 12: Algeria 1-0 Uruguay
June 20: Zambia 0-2 Algeria
Even though Egypt won their match in spectacular and dramatic fashion, most analysts will tell you that their midfield was off its usual form and the uncharacteristic long balls played forward were a prime example of this.
Thankfully for them, they are set to have some reinforcements in this department as both Mohamed Shawki and Hosni Abd Rabo are now fit to take part in the crunch encounter.
Meanwhile, it is unclear if Wael Gomaa will be ready to take his usual place in the starting lineup.
Probable Starting XI: Hadhari –Hani Saied, El Saqua, Ahmed Saeid –Fathi, Moawad, Hassan, Aboutrika, Homos –Zaki, Zidan.
While their opponents’ concerns at squad level seem to be abating, Algeria’s troubles have not as both midfielder Khaled Lemmouchia and Lounes Gaouaoui are suspended due to yellow card accumulation. The goalkeeper situation is likely to be solved by Rabah Saadane who will insert ES Setif’s Faouzi Chaouchi in his place.
Meanwhile, the inclusion MC Alger glovesman Mohamed Amine Zemmamouche in the list of 24 players called up looks to have been a wise decision by Saadane who knew that a play-off was possible and that his first keeper was under the threat of missing the encounter should he receive a yellow, which he did.
Aside from the suspensions, both Anthar Yahia and Rafik Halliche are suffering from injuries that forced them off the pitch in the previous game but the severity of each is not known.
Probable Starting XI: Chaouchi – Bougherra, Yahia, Laifaoui, Belhadj – Mansouri, Yebda, Meghni, Ziani – Saifi, Ghezzal.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Mohamed Aboutrika has a knack for scoring in the most important matches for both club and country and this one has a decisive performance by him written all over it.
Rafik Saifi missed a few very good looks at goal in Cairo that would have surely put his team through. He has been their main scoring threat in these qualifiers and will have to make better use of his opportunities if Algeria are to qualify.
Nothing has separated these teams thus far and anything can happen in one match but given the manner in which Egypt resurrected themselves it is hard to imagine that the defending African champions will allow their opportunity to advance to their first World Cup since Italia '90 to slip away even though the resourceful Algerians will do everything in their power not to lose out to their bitter rivals in such cruel fashion.
Egypt 2-1 Algeria
Rami Ayari, Goal.com