Egypt set up a titanic clash against Argentina in the U-20 World Cup round of 16 after a Mohamed Ibrahim hat-trick helped them claim a comprehensive 4-0 win over Austria in the early hours of Friday.
Attacking midfielder Ibrahim, who came through the youth ranks of Cairo giants Zamalek, scored three times after the interval, including a fluke goal, to give Egypt their second group-stage victory after Mohamed Ghazy opened the scoring in the first half.
Egypt, who defeated Panama 1-0 in their previous match, finished second in Group E with seven points, behind leaders Brazil on goal difference after the latter thrashed Panama 4-0.
They will face Group F winners Argentina, the record winners of the tournament with six titles under their belt, in the round of 16. It will be their fourth U-20 World Cup meeting in a decade.
Argentina humiliated Egypt with a 7-1 group-stage win in 2001 before eliminating them two years later following a hard-fought 2-1 victory in the round of 16. Argentina also beat Egypt 2-0 in 2005, thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi and Pablo Zabaleta.
Egypt won the bronze medal in 2001 for the national team’s best ever achievement on the youth and senior levels.
Egypt needed a goal-line clearance from central defender Ahmed Hegazy to prevent Austria from opening the scoring as early as the third minute after a mis-timed jump by goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy allowed a header to go goalwards.
The young Pharaohs took firm control afterwards, launching a wave of attacks but struggling to apply the finishing touches, with in-form forward Mohamed Salah wasting several goal scoring opportunities.
Their best chance fell to lone striker Ahmed Hassan, who was included in the starting line up after usual starter Mohamed Hamdy was rested, after 28 minutes. He was sent clean through by a neat defense-splitting pass from Salah but his shot was blocked by Austria keeper Samuel Radlinger.
Egypt made amends on 31 minutes when a long-range shot by Ghazy, who also made his first appearance to partner Mohamed El-Nenny in the heart of the team’s midfield, was deflected by Austria's Robert Zulj before looping into the net.
Salah and Ibrahim, who were both lauded by Brazil’s U-20 coach following a 1-1 draw between the four-time World Cup winners and Egypt in their tournament opener, mesmerized the enthusiastic crowd with some skillful moves in the second half as Diaa El-Sayed’s team ran riot.
Ibrahim added the second in the 59th minute when his innocuous right-foot shot was fumbled by Radlinger into his own net before killing off Austria’s hopes three minutes later following a superb three-man maneuver.
Salah, moving across the 18-yard box after eluding his challenger, found Ibrahim on the edge of the area and the Zamalek youngster released the overlapping El-Nenny with a brilliant first-time pass.
El-Nenny tried to round Radlinger, who thwarted his attempt but the ball fell into the path of Ibrahim to slot into an empty net from 12 yards out.
Ibrahim completed his hat-trick eight minutes from time with a simple tap-in to put the icing on the cake.