Italy Stunned by Egypt: An Upset for the Ages
It takes a great deal of heart, courage, and guts to enter unfamiliar surroundings and capture the hearts of thousands, while leaving a long-lasting impression in a period of less than a week.
Ask the official African representatives of the FIFA Confederations Cup, Egypt, who landed in South Africa after being handed a tough defeat in their World Cup qualifying match in Algeria a week earlier, only to comeback and shock the world with their best performance of the century against the reigning world champions, Italy.
In football, it is typically considered that physical toughness outweighs mental toughness. Usually, when both those products combine, the result is a fruitful one.
In an historic game against Italy, Egypt dictated the tempo from the beginning to end (with a lot of luck in between). Their defense was astounding, after a poor performance against the Brazilians.
The first half saw many lacklustre Italian chances, with no real substance. The 22-year-old Giuseppe Rossi attempted a few of his thunderous shots, but the magnificent 36-year-old Essam El-Hadary was more than his match.
Towards the end of the first 45 minutes, against the run of play, the Egyptians were awarded a corner kick. One of the unheralded greats of modern football, 30-year-old Mohammed Abo Treka, calmly addressed the ball and deliver a perfectly flighted ball to midfielder Mohammed Hommos, who netted Egypt's first and only goal of the game.
In the second half, El-Hadary had luck on his sided against the rugged Italians. Whilst the Italians were frustrated by the stalwart Eygptian defense led by Wael Gomaa, Hani Said, and Ahmed Said. El-Hadary looking more like former German great Oliver Kahn than a 6ft Dameittian. He made three crucial saves to preserve Egypt's valuable lead.
The introduction of both Riccardo Montolivo and Luca Toni in the second half meant that the Azzurri had to be attentive towards Egypt's lethal counterattacks. When the fourth official counted five minutes of stoppage time, Italian fans were given a brief relief, while Egyptian fans saw it as a curse.
As the referee blew his whistle to end the game, it meant that 75 million Egyptians were dancing their way in the streets of Cairo, Ismalia, and Alexendria to celebrate the game of the century for the Pharaohs.
The wildly optimistic Egyptian fan who held the sign "Sorry Italy, Try Again Next Time," should have been embarrassed as soon as he found his seat in the Johannesburg Stadium. 90 minutes later, he must be shutting down all his critics.
Man of the Match: Essam El-Hadary / Mohammed Hommos
Best Moment of the Match: When Abo Treka made a tackle on Gennaro Gattuso, only for the camera-man to find Gattusso exposed in his underwear. A "Cover your Eyes Children" moment, but an entertaining one.
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