Egypt have secured a last 16 berth at the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations after they defeated old rivals Sudan 1-0 at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde on Wednesday night.
Pharaohs defender Mohamed Abdelmonem scored the only goal of the game, seeing his side finish as runners-up in Group D behind Nigeria and advance into the knockout phase of the Afcon.
Despite the defeat, the Falcons of Jediane actually move up to third place on the log, but their tally of just one point will not be enough to see them join the Pharaohs and Super Eagles in advancing. They join bottom-of-the-log Guinea-Bissau in early elimination.
The match got off to a frantic start, with the teams trading chances within the opening five minutes: Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny and Mostafa Mohamed both spurned good opportunities, while Sudan’s Mohamed Hussein sent an effort into the stands after good build-up play.
The Pharaohs then settled into a pattern of sterile dominance, bossing possession without really threatening the Falcons’ defence.
Star man Mohamed Salah was unable to find his top form, notably failing to control a brilliant pass into the penalty area from Abdallah El Said in one of the rare instances in which the heavyweights looked like scoring in the opening half hour.
Egypt clicked through a couple of gears and duly claimed the lead on 35 minutes, with Abdallah El Said’s corner kick allowing Mohamed Abdelmonem to score with a free header, giving Sudan goalkeeper Mohamed Mustafa no chance whatsoever.
Egypt kept Sudan on the back foot through the remainder of the first half, but did not add to their lead, leaving the game 1-0 in favour of the seven-time Afcon champions at the interval.
The Falcons of Jediane made a triple change at the start of the second half, with Yasin Hamed and Abbas Omer introduced to try and spark their attack, while goalkeeper Mustafa succumbed to a knock suffered in the first 45 and was replaced by Ali Abu Eshrein.
After an initial bright period for Sudan, Egypt reasserted control and created several half-chances to add to their lead, the best of which was spurned by Amr El Solia, who shot over the target with only the goalkeeper to beat on 66 minutes.
Sudan offered little in attack – with only a momentary fumble from Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy giving them a glimpse of a goal with 10 minutes to play – and in general they were easily held at bay the Pharaohs.
The Pharaohs may not have been convincing – either in this game or the group stage overall – but they have improved since their opening defeat to Nigeria and should not be underestimated once the last 16 gets under way this coming weekend.
Egypt, as Group D runners-up, will face the winners of Group E (Ivory Coast are the current leaders) in their round of 16 clash, set for the Japoma Stadium in Douala on Wednesday, 26 January.