Egypt reached the Olympic Games for the first time in 20 years after securing a 2-0 victory over Senegal to finish third at the U-23 African Championship in Morocco on Saturday.
Two goals from striker Ahmed Sherweida and midfielder Saleh Gomaa either side of the interval gave Egypt a precious win as the young Pharaohs made up for their 3-2 defeat by hosts Morocco in the semi-final.
The victory lifted Hany Ramzy’s side to next year’s London Games, joining Morocco and Gabon who meet in the African Championship final later on Saturday.
Senegal will have to overcome an Asian representative in a playoff to advance to the Olympic Games.
Egypt’s last participation in the quadrennial showpiece came in 1992 in Barcelona, where they lost against Spain and Qatar before defeating Colombia as they failed to get beyond the group stage.
Chances were few and far between in a dull first half, but Egypt had the upper hand in terms of possession, thanks to some astute passes from central midfielder Saleh Gomaa.
Senegal had the first chance though when a free header by Omar Wade went wide after 30 minutes.
Egypt broke the deadlock three minutes later when a mix-up between a Senegal defender and keeper following a right-wing cross from lively winger Mohamed Salah, the team’s best performer, left Sherweida with an easy tap in.
In-form keeper Ahmed El-Shennawy, who is reportedly targeted by French side Marseille, pulled off a great save in the 37th minute to deny Senegal an equalizer, tipping over a curling free kick at the far post.
Senegal pushed forward in the second half to level the score, leaving gaps at the back which Egypt exploited on several occasions.
Sherweida almost doubled Egypt’s advantage on 62 minutes when he was found unmarked by a low cross from Salah but he shot straight at the keeper.
Gomaa made amends seven minutes later when he fired a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to put Egypt on the brink of a long-awaited Olympic qualification.
El-Shennawy thwarted several Senegalese shots to keep Egypt’s two-goal lead intact before the final whistle brought an ecstatic reaction from Ramzy and his players.
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