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Going up
Published in Ahram Online on 17 - 11 - 2020

With two games remaining, Egypt now has eight points, tied with Comoros but ahead on goal difference. Kenya is third with three points while Togo lies at the bottom of the table with one point.
The first two teams in each group qualify for the 2021 tournament، which will be held in January 2022.
Egypt had won the first leg 1-0 in Cairo on Saturday before beating the Togolese 3-1 on Tuesday in the away match in Lome.
Eighteen minutes into the second leg, Egypt took the lead thanks to a brilliant goal by Mohamed Hamdi Afsha.
Mohamed Sherif added the second at the 33rd minute after an assist by goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Shennawi.
Just two minutes into the second half, Mahmoud Trezegeut netted the third goal to put the game away. Togo defender Yayra Josue scored a consolation goal in injury time.
Going into the first leg African qualifier against Togo in Egypt last week, the Egyptian national football team was hit by the news that star man Mohamed Salah had tested positive for the coronavirus and that he would miss the game. The news came as a bit of a shock as Salah was the only player to test positive from Egypt in addition to two Togo players. What made it worse was the fact that Egyptian coach Hossam Al-Badri had no other option but to win the game to ensure hopes of reaching the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in January 2022 in Cameroon.
The Pharaohs started strongly and nearly scored inside the first two minutes through Zamalek forward Mustafa Mohamed who chested the ball down inside the box and took a shot at goal that was blocked by Togo defenders.
Egypt nearly took the lead in the 22nd minute when Zamalek duo Ahmed Sayed, also known as Zizo, and Mohamed combined well as the latter's powerful header hit the crossbar much to the dismay of the national team's bench.
Egypt kept searching for the vital goal with Mahmoud Trezeguet firing a shot from the edge of the box straight into the hands of Togo goalkeeper Malcolm Barcola. A minute later, Mohamed unleashed a powerful long-range effort that went high and off target, the last effort by Al-Badri's men in the first half.
Egypt finally managed to break the deadlock in the 53rd minute of the game through an unlikely goalscorer, defender Mahmoud Hamdi or El-Wensh.
Midfielder Abdullah Al-Said's very clever set-piece evaded everyone to reach Arsenal star Mohamed Al-Nenni at the back post who put it into the path of an unmarked El-Wensh, who headed home the opening goal of the game and his first ever for Egypt.
The game in general was very boring and the performance of the Egyptian side was extremely worrying given that they were playing against the weakest opponents in the group and were made to work very hard to win the game.
Despite the win, the Egyptian Football Association announced it had filed an official complaint to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) because of what it said were the costly refereeing errors during the Togo game. Egypt had two clear penalty claims turned down by the referee in the match. “The EFA sent a letter to the CAF including their fears over referees' errors during the games that could affect the federation's efforts,” read a statement by the association. The EFA also confirmed in their letter to the CAF the “absence of refereeing justice during the game against Togo”.
“The unjust decisions by the referee may come because of CAF's orders not to use VAR (video assistant referee) during this round of qualifiers, so we are worried about future refereeing decisions during Egypt's national team's away games,” the statement added.
At any rate, Al-Badri's men collected all three points from the game and will be hoping to seal their qualification by defeating Togo in the second leg.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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