Egypt lose to South Africa in friendly after another uninspiring display
Hatem Maher, Tuesday 6 Sep 2016

Egypt failed to sparkle in their last friendly before beginning their World Cup qualifying campaign, losing 1-0 to South Africa in Soweto after another dull display on Tuesday.

Mpho Makola headed home after seven minutes following some slack marking to net what proved to be the winner but the victory will do little to console South Africa's fans following the team's surprise failure to qualify for next year's African Cup of Nations in Gabon.

Egypt, who reached the Nations Cup for the first time since 2010 after topping a three-team group featuring heavyweights Nigeria, were once again uninspiring after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Guinea in their previous friendly last week.

The performances will ring alarm bells as Egypt prepare for their opening World Cup qualifier away to Congo on 3 October.

Argentinean coach Hector Cuper will have his work cut out if the team are to end a long wait for a World Cup appearance, having last participated in 1990 in Italy.

Unlike the friendly against Guinea, Cuper fielded an almost full-strength side with the exception of Stoke City winger Ramadan Sobhi, who came on as a late substitute.

However, they were caught by surprise after seven minutes when Makola escaped the attention of his marker to head home at the far post following an inch-perfect cross from Mandla Masango.

Basel right-back Omar Gaber was Egypt's liveliest performer in a poor first half but the Pharaohs struggled to carve out any openings.

A half-chance fell to lone striker Ahmed Kouka, who plays for Sporting Braga in Portugal, but his shot from inside the area was thwarted by a sliding defender two minutes before the interval.

Egypt relatively improved after the break but AS Roma winger Mohamed Salah spurned the only two goal-scoring chances the team created.

Belgium-based winger Mahmoud Hassan, nicknamed Trezeguet, sped past a couple of defenders and squared the ball for Salah but his low shot from inside the area went just wide on 55 minutes.

Seven minutes later, left-back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi whipped in a cross that found the former Chelsea man but his free header missed the target.

Both sides made five substitutions but they eased off towards the end as South Africa managed to keep their lead intact.

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