A spirited Egypt side slumped to a 3-2 loss to gold medal favourites Brazil after coming close to staging a remarkable comeback in their opening Olympic Games Group C game in Cardiff on Thursday.
Some dreadful defensive mistakes allowed Brazil to go to the locker room with a three-goal lead, thanks to goals from Rafael, Leandro Damiao and Neymar.
The Selecao, whose pace left Egypt’s sluggish defenders chasing shadows in the first half, looked well equipped to extend the gap after the break but were stunned by a revitalized opponent, who were inspired by the second-half introduction of Basel new man Mohamed Salah.
Salah injected a much-needed pace into Egypt’s game, helping them narrow the gap via a goal from skipper Mohamed Abou-Treika seven minutes after the restart before adding the second himself with a superb strike.
However, Brazil managed to hold onto their slender lead to claim all three points, on level with Belarus who defeated New Zealand 1-0 in the other Group C game.
Egypt, who are making their first Olympic appearance in 20 years, next face New Zealand at Manchester United’s Old Trafford Stadium on Sunday.
Brazil outplay Egypt
Egypt made a promising start and had a half-chance after three minutes when midfielder Mohamed El-Nenny’s volley from a tight angle was palmed away by Brazil keeper Neto.
They were totally outplayed afterwards, with Brazil’s pacy and skilful forwards causing constant menace to Egypt’s defenders with some swift moves and neat interchange of passes.
Brazil were rewarded after 16 minutes when Manchester United full-back Rafael controlled a pass from Oscar in the area, cut inside his marker and found the bottom corner of the net with a low shot.
Recurring defensive blunders allowed Brazil to double their advantage 10 minutes later.
A mix-up between left-back Islam Ramadan and goalkeeper Ahmed El-Shennawy, who was too slow to come out, allowed Oscar to round him on the right hand side of the area before squaring the ball to Leandro Damiao, who slotted into an empty net.
Santos forward Neymar, one of the world’s most sought-after players, left Egypt with a mountain to climb after adding the third in the 30th minute.
He made a darting run before releasing the unmarked Hulk with a deft pass on the left. The Porto man whipped in a cross for Neymar, who caught three markers napping to head home after El-Shennawy got a hand to this effort.
Many Egyptians anticipated more Brazilian goals after the break but Salah’s heroics put the Pharaohs on the verge of a miraculous comeback.
The 20-year-old, who has just recovered from a shoulder injury, had a hand in almost all of Egypt’s forays, keeping Brazil’s defenders on their toes.
Egypt’s efforts paid dividends in the 52nd minute when right-back Ahmed Fathi, one of the team’s lively performers, rose at the far post to nod a corner into the path of striker Emad Meteb.
The Ahly’s man sliding effort struck the post and fell to Abou-Treika, who made no mistake with a first-timer to narrow the gap.
Salah gave Egypt a lifeline in the 76th minute following a superb individual effort. Bamboozling Real Madrid left-back with a feint, his left-foot shot went past Brazil keeper Neto from the edge of the area.
However, it was too little, too late as Brazil defended their narrow advantage to prevent Egypt from securing a famous draw.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO Sportsand on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)