Egypt out of Arab Cup after late own goal against Tunisia

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 15 Dec 2021

A last-gasp own goal from Amr El-Sulaya broke Egypt's hearts and silenced the team's vociferous supporters as the Pharaohs bowed out of the FIFA Arab Cup following a 1-0 defeat by Tunisia in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Egypt s players react after losing the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 semi-final football match between Tunisia and Egypt at the 974 stadium in the Qatari capital of Doha on December 15, 2021. AFP

The Ahly midfielder miscued an attempted clearance and powerfully headed the ball past his own goalkeeper following a corner deep in stoppage time, sparking wild celebrations among Tunisia's players.

It was hardly a fitting end to a drab affair in which both sides were overly-cautious, creating few openings at Qatar's Stadium 974.

Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz once again experimented with his starting line-up, fielding several players in unfamiliar positions. The Portuguese said more than once he was looking to try different strategies in the Arab Cup but his team selection will still draw criticism.

The seven-time African champions' demanding supporters can only wonder what might have been had Queiroz stuck to a normal game plan, in which players such as Ahly's Mohamed Sherif can have a chance to blossom in their usual positions.

Sherif, a natural forward who finished as the Egyptian Premier League's top scorer with 21 goals last season, started on the bench before being introduced in the second half. He once again failed to make his presence felt after being deployed on the right flank.

Natural winger Ahmed Zizo was also fielded as a central midfielder while Queiroz kept faith with off-form frontman Marwan Hamdi, only taking him off in the dying minutes after he produced another lifeless display.

Egypt will meet the losers of Wednesday's other semi-final clash between Algeria and hosts Qatar in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

Few chances

Chances were at a premium in a dull affair as both sides appeared unwilling to take any risks.

The only highlights of the first half were an early free header from Tunisia playmaker Youssef Msakni that went over the bar and an injury to his teammate Yassine Meriah, who made way for Ali Ben Romdhane.

Tunisia were awarded a controversial penalty on 58 minutes when Ben Romdhane fell under the slightest of contacts from Egypt defender Ahmed Hegazi but the referee overturned his decision following a VAR review.

It took Egypt until the 75th minute to create their first goal-scoring chance, with substitute Mostafa Fathi blasting a volley high over with the goal at his mercy after a defensive mistake allowed Hamdi to play him in.

Fathi also needlessly committed a foul four minutes into stoppage time, which was whipped into the area to force El-Sulaya into a costly error.

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