Egypt reached the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages thanks to a 2-2 draw against Cape Verde in a stunning finale to Group B, as Ghana threw away a 2-0 lead to move to the brink of an early tournament exit.
Going into the final round of matches, Cape Verde had already secured top spot but Egypt, Ghana and Mozambique all had a chance of reaching the last 16.
After goals from Cape Verde’s Gilson Benchimol Tavares and Egypt’s Trézéguet made the scores 1-1, Mostafa Mohamed looked to have scored the winning goal in the 93rd minute to help the Pharaohs leapfrog Ghana into second place.
But there was still time for Bryan Silva Teixeira Jr. to find an equalizer for Cape Verde, leveling the scores in the ninth minute of added time to apparently send Egypt home from the tournament early.
Several Egyptian players dropped to the turf in disbelief, thinking the country’s 14-year AFCON drought had been extended.
Their disappointment, however, would be short lived and they were quickly informed that Ghana had squandered its 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Mozambique in the 91st and 94th minute.
That result meant the draw was enough to see Egypt through to the last 16.
Relief will certainly be the overriding emotion for an Egypt team that has struggled to make much of an impression at the tournament so far.
Talisman Mo Salah was watching on from the stands and the team still remains hopeful he will be fit enough to return from injury should Egypt make it deeper into the knockout stages.
However, Salah’s agent said on Monday that the injury is “more serious than first thought” and he is expected to be out for 21 to 28 days and not just two matches.
Salah was set to return to England following Monday’s match.
Ghana, meanwhile, needs a miracle to progress as one of the four best third-placed teams and requires several favorable results in the other groups.
Led by former Brighton and Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton, the Black Stars have been a disappointment throughout the tournament, looking lifeless and out of ideas for much of their three games.
The four-time champion hasn’t won an AFCON since 1982 and the long 42-year wait for glory will likely go on for another 18 months at least, when the tournament returns to Morocco during the northern hemisphere summer.
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