Egypt are through to the final round of 2014 World Cup qualifying in Africa after securing a 1-0 victory over Mozambique in Maputo.
Mohamed Salah, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday, made it a weekend to remember by scoring the only goal five minutes before half-time.
The win puts the Pharaohs eight points clear of Guinea at the top of Group G.
Their progress comes despite Egypt having a year without league football following a stadium disaster in 2012.
After the Port Stadium tragedy in February of that year, where over 70 Al Ahly fans died, Egyptian authorities barred all domestic football for security reasons – with the league only resuming in February 2013.
Egypt coach Bob Bradley is intent on qualifying the Pharaohs for the World Cup despite all the problems, with the North Africans desperate to appear on world football’s biggest stage for only the third time.
Despite dominating the African game in recent years, winning the Nations Cup in 1998 and on three occasions between 2006 and 2010, Egypt have failed to qualify for the World Cup since 1990.
Their attempts to represent the continent at its first World Cup in 2010 failed in unforgettable circumstances when beaten in a dramatic play-off by bitter North African rivals Algeria.
Salah, who scored Sunday’s vital against the Mambas, has been instrumental in Egypt’s World Cup qualifying campaign, with the FC Basel winger scoring a hat-trick in last weekend’s 4-2 win against Zimbabwe.
In Sunday’s later game in the group, Guinea host Zimbabwe in Conakry – a match that starts at 1700 GMT.
Egypt’s win in Mozambique ensures the seven-time African champions will be one of the ten nations through to the African play-offs for Brazil 2014.
The Pharaohs will learn who they will face when the Confederation of African Football conducts the draw for the deciding round on 16 September.
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Today’s front pages: Wednesday, April 21, 2021