The Egyptians lost 5-0 to the host country Morocco in the final match of the eight-team tournament, but still managed to qualify for the Futsal World Cup, reports Inas Mazhar.
The event, five-a-side football, was a qualifier for the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup which is scheduled to take place in Lithuania from 12 September to 4 October.
On home soil, Morocco successfully defended the title they won four years back with a well worked victory over Egypt in Laayoune on Friday. While they struggled to beat the Egyptians 3-2 during the last edition in 2016 in South Africa, this time, the Atlas Lions were flawless and more destructive.
A brace from Soufiane El Mesrar and one each by Abdelatif Fati, Anas El Ayyane and Saad Knia ensured the Atlas Lions retained their title to be crowned African kings for a second time, thus stopping Egypt’s hunt for a historic fourth piece of silverware.
Powered on by the home crowd who had filled the arena to the brim, the Moroccans made maximum use of the home ground advantage to settle the game early, taking a 3-0 halftime lead.
El Mesrar broke the deadlock with just three minutes chalked down on the clock with a swinging shot after being teed up by Bakkali from a free kick.
The home side was in total control with Bakkali and Knia having shots hit the upright as they raided the Egyptian half. Fati came closest with eight minutes left to half time when he wheeled away off a counter, but his little dink over the keeper was wide.
They were 2-0 up however just 28 seconds later when Fati played a quick one two with Achraf Saoud on the right side of the court before he was teed up with a clever run inside the box to tap home past the keeper.
For the Egyptians, the loss was a shock, not only for the players, but the team’s officials, spectators in the stadium and the fans back home, since the Pharaohs had won all their matches en route to the final game.
Egypt had topped its Group B, while Morocco led Group A. Egypt had opened its group stage with an impressive victory as they overpowered Guinea 9-0, then beat Angola 3-0, and later Mozambique 3-2 to top the group and qualify for the semi-finals, in which they defeated Libya 5-2 to reach the final.
And while everybody expected the final between the hosts and the Egyptians to be a battle royal, it was anything but as the hosts dominated the game while Egypt was completely out of form.
In the play-off for third place, Angola downed Libya 2-0 to clinch the bronze medal and claim Africa’s last available World Cup tickets.
Magno Felipe Gomes scored the decisive goal for Angola with just 18 seconds to go after the Libyans had gambled for a power player in the final two minutes to try and mastermind a comeback. It was Artur Saddan Samuel Dasilva who gave Angola a first half lead in a close tie, a lead they jealously guarded till they added their second in the dying seconds of the game.
The 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup will feature 24 teams from six confederations and will be held in three cities in Lithuania.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.