Egypt went into this match hoping to pick up their first victory against Nigeria in 47 years as the Pharaohs began their title defence. The Super Eagles looked determined from the start, making typically tough tackles, but the first chance of the game fell to Egypt, as Mohamed Zidan found himself in front of goal, but his shot was wasted as he hit it over Vincent Enyeama’s goal.
Nigeria were forceful in their play, and in the 11th minute their determination paid off, as Hoffenheim striker Chinedu Obasi turned the ball from his right foot onto his left before unleashing a thunderbolt that Egypt ‘keeper El Hadary could not keep out.
The crowd grew louder with appreciation after the goal, but yet another half full stadium was a disappointing sight considering the players on display. Nigeria had a penalty call turned down, as an Egyptian defender mistakenly stopped a cross with an outswinging hand.
Nigeria used their strength to stop the diminutive Egyptians, and the speed of the Super Eagles down the flanks was something to behold, as a blistering run and cross from Taiwo in the 21st minute found Uche in the box, but the Almeria player blasted over when he should have made it 2-0.
Nigeria seemed to have the upper hand, but Egypt would threaten on the break occasionally, with Zidan causing a few headaches for the big Nigerian defenders, as his silky footwork brought him close to the target and his shot went narrowly wide.
In the 34th minute, Taiwo’s speed created yet another opportunity for the Super Eagles, as he crossed into the centre of the box from the byline, but Uche’s powerful shot went just wide of the post. The resulting goal kick gave Egypt the equaliser they were looking for, as a fine through ball found Emad Meteeb, who dribbled around the onrushing Enyeama before slipping the ball into an empty net.
Both teams created chances in the dying minutes of the first half, but neither took advantage of the situation, and the teams went into the break with the score at 1-1.
Many had expected that narrowly missing out on qualifying for the World Cup in June would spur the Pharaohs to achieve a third consecutive victory in Angola, and they started the second half with that in mind, but Nigeria threatened once more with John Obi Mikel, as the Chelsea player powered his way into the area before a touch too much allowed Egypt to clear.
In the 54th minute, Egypt took the lead for the first time in the game, as good work on the right by Zidan allowed him to set the ball back for Ahmed Hassan in his eighth African Nations Cup competition, and the captain cracked a thunderous strike, which took a deflection off Taiwo, wrong footing the Nigerian ‘keeper as the ball went into the back of the net.
With half an hour to go Egypt nearly made it 3-1, but Meteeb could not make the most of his opportunity in front of goal, as his shot rocketed off the crossbar. Egypt continued to push forward, and a free kick from Zidan demanded a fine save from Enyeama to keep it out.
Nigeria tried to make the most of a few shots from distance, but Mikel’s strike in the 68th minute went horribly wide of the Pharaohs’ goal. With 20 minutes remaining and substitutions taking place from both benches, Egypt continued to look the more confident of the two African giants, as Zidan hit yet another long range effort, which skipped wide of the Nigerian goal.
Taiwo responded with a strike of his own, but the powerful shot was straight at El Hadary and the veteran goalkeeper saved without any problems. Few chances were produced in the final ten minutes, as the biggest cheer from the almost full stadium (which was half empty at the start) was for the entrance of legend Nwankwo Kanu from the bench, replacing Mikel for the final part of the game.
Egypt held on well, and Nigeria could not break down the Pharaohs despite some desperate play at the death, but when there seemed to be no more goals in the game Egypt placed the cherry on top of a fine win with a 87th minute goal from substitute Nagy Gedo, scoring his first Nations Cup goal with a strike from just outside the box into the corner of the Nigerian net. Egypt launched a final flurry of attacks, and they almost extended their lead, but after a few minutes of injury time the exciting game ended in favour of the Pharaohs.
Egypt defeat the Super Eagles for the first time in 47 years and they will be expected by their teeming fans to make up for the heartbreak that ensured that Africa’s most successful football nation missed out on the biggest football event to be hosted on the continent by bringing home the title as a consolation prize.
Nigeria on the other hand will have disappointed their passionate fans once again, falling to the Pharaohs after going ahead early on.
Peter Pedroncelli, Goal.com