Egypt crush Chad to reach group stage of World Cup qualifiers
Egypt's (L) and Chad's football team line up prior to the World Cup qualifying football match between Egypt and Chad in Borg El-Arab near Egypt's northern port city of Alexandria on November 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / STR
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Egypt strolled into the final round of the World Cup qualifiers with a 4-0 home win over a jaded Chad side which had just arrived in Alexandria in time for the game, with repeated flight delays back home leaving them with minimal preparation for the crucial match.
Chad barely had time for the routine pre-match warm up at Borg El-Arab Stadium in Egypt's second largest city and they were ripped to shreds by a vibrant Egypt side who vowed to make up for a stunning 1-0 first-leg reverse in N'Djamena on Saturday.
Egypt, who scored all goals in the first half, basked in the support of some 25,000 fans at the 86,000-seat stadium for the first time since hosting Senegal in Cairo in November last year, as a crowd ban was partially lifted by Egyptian authorities.
The hosts went 2-0 up inside the first 10 minutes to overturn the first-leg deficit, with Basel midfielder Mohamed Elneny opening the scoring and Ahly's Abdallah El-Saied notching his first goal in 13 international appearances.
Two headers from lone striker Ahmed Kouka before the break completed the rout and ensured there would be no huge upsets for a team which, despite being the record African champions with seven Nations Cup titles, have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990.
The Pharaohs will be drawn into a four-team group, with the winners directly reaching the 2018 finals in Russia. The draw will be made in July next year and the group stage will start in October.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper switched his formation from a classic 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 following the injury of Zamalek marksman Bassem Morsi.
A powerful Egyptian right flank launched a wave of raids early on, with Zamalek's Mostafa Fathi linking up well with club teammate and full-back Omar Gaber to slice open the opposing defence far too easily.
Fan criticism of Cuper's decision to leave Fathi out of the first leg appeared justified as the 21-year-old wreaked havoc down the flank and was Egypt's best performer in the first half, nutmegging challengers and whipping in several dangerous crosses.
A typical Gaber-Fathi combination resulted in Egypt's opener after five minutes, sending the home fans into raptures and easing their nerves.
Gaber exchanged passes with Fathi and pulled the ball back to Elneny whose shot in the middle went past Chad's keeper Mbairamadji Dillah for his third international goal.
Ahly playmaker El-Saied put Egypt ahead on aggregate five minutes later with a fine header following a pinpoint cross from Fathi, who superbly skipped past his challenger down the right.
Egypt remained in full control despite relatively easing off, leaving Chad to chase shadows for long periods.
Two simple headers from Kouka, who is enjoying a fine run with Sporting Braga in Portugal, after crosses from El-Saied and left-back Sabri Rahil on 35 and 40 minutes ended the game as a contest.
The second half was a dull affair but Egypt squandered several goal-scoring chances, including two from Fathi whose finishing touches were disappointing despite his brilliant display.