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Analysis: Egypt pays for being too cautious

Egypt downed in South Africa from playing too defensively in a crucial Nations Cup qualifier, with ‘clincher’ players coming in too late

Hatem Maher , Saturday 26 Mar 2011
Egypt and South Africa starting formations

Egypt paid the price for an ultra-cautious strategy that hardly benefited them in a stunning 1-0 defeat in South Africa. The team’s hopes of reaching next year’s African Cup of Nations finals received a serious blow.

South Africa striker, Katlego Mphela, took advantage of his side’s only real opportunity throughout the game to notch home three minutes into the additional time and send the home fans into rapture.

Egypt coach, Hassan Shehata, who looked pale and helpless on the touchline, fielded three central midfielders in: Hosni Abd-Rabou, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Shawky in a 3-5-1-1 formation against a seemingly toothless South Africa side.

They successfully cut short South Africa’s shy attempts in the first half but failed to feed lone striker, Al-Sayed Hamdi and deep-lying forward Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala,’ who were left isolated.

Egypt’s left-back, Sayed Moawad was energetic in the first half but had to make individual efforts down the flank due to lack of sufficient support, thanks to the absence of influential forwards Mohamed Zidan and Mohamed Abou-Treika, who both started on the bench.

The Pharaohs’ sole goal-scoring chance before the break came from a set-piece, with central defender, Mahmoud Fathallah heading a corner just over the bar from nine yards out.

South Africa played with two strikers in: Bernard Parker and Mphela in a 4-4-2 formation but they were closely marked by Egypt’s steadfast defenders, whose rare lapse of concentration gifted the Bafana Bafana an invaluable goal.

Bafana Bafana appeared toothless and failed to justify Shehata’s over-reliance on closing down spaces in the back, rather than throwing men forward to secure a crucial win.

In the second half, Egypt stuck to their strategy of the early stages. They did manage to lay siege in South Africa’s territory, albeit to no avail, as Shikabala and Hamdi remained peripheral figures.

It was not until the hour mark when Shehata started to have a more proactive approach, introducing forward Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ to boost his attacking options, switching to a 3-4-3 formation.

Gedo injected zeal as Egypt piled on pressure, but appeared in desperate need of backing by Zidan, whose pace and dribbling skills could have caused South Africa’s defenders a constant menace.

Abou-Treika came on in the 77th minute and Zidan was introduced with four minutes remaining but it was too little, too late.

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