Egypt and Algeria meet in Sudan on Wednesday night in a crucial World Cup Playoff, after Egypt won the final qualifyer between the two by the 2-0 needed to force the playoff. The two north African neighbours have a history of intense rivalry. In 1989, the two did battle on and off the pitch. The violence was so great that it ended with an Egyptian supporter losing an eye and an arrest warrant was issued for an Algerian player by Interpol!
In the final round of qualifying matches in the African section, Egypt again face Algeria. The Pharaohs are reigning African Cup of Nations holders and beat Italy at the Confederations Cup this summer, but lost 3-1 to the Desert Foxes in June.
They needed to win by three-goals on Saturday to book their place in South Africa, a two-nil win left the teams equal on goal difference forcing another game on neutral ground.
Egyptian fans, keen to ensure their sides passage, attacked the Algerian team bus on Thursday, footage of which is easily found elsewhere on the Internet. Despite the evidence, the press in Egypt readily dismissed the attack as a hoax, staged by Algeria.
The players arriving at their hotel in the city covered in blood and the coach missing windows seemed proof enough.
Further evidence of the disgraceful attack was found on the mobile phones of players on the coach, clearly showing the lengths the attackers went to in order to cause maximum damage.
By Friday, FIFA had stepped in and “asked the Egyptian Football Association and the highest national authorities through the relevant ministries to provide written guarantees” that security would be improved immediately.
The madness does not end there, as the press in both countries escalated the war of words. Algeria accused Egypt of "selling Palestine to the Jews" and "losing the six day war" with Israel. Egyptian writers responded with taunts of "France made you slaves".
In a bizarre twist, a multi-national company like Coca-Cola has become embroiled in the media war, starting a campaign with the tag line "I was there in 1989", and selling Tee Shirts and mass producing posters!
On the field, Algeria will be without star striker Rafik Saifi, but Marseille midfielder and talisman Karim Ziani is expected to be fit. Siena's Abdelkader Ghezzal and Rangers’ Madjid Bougherra will also hope to help gain the required result. Egypt manager Shehata still refuses to recall Mido, while continuing with the ex-Wigan striker Amir Zaki who scored the opener on Saturday.
An ugly build up then, to what many expect to be a brutal encounter which may get out of control before the final whistle.
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