Algeria-Egypt football ‘war’ on the cards

2010-01-27 13:13

THE die is cast for the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final between

fierce regional rivals Egypt and Algeria.

This after less than two months from two qualifying matches for a

World Cup ticket left a long trail of bitterness and violence.

Algeria will feature at the World Cup in South Africa later this

year after they pipped their fellow north Africans in a play-off in Sudan. Both

teams were tied with the same points and same goal difference at the end of

their group campaign that included Zambia and Rwanda.

The Algeria team bus was attacked by Egyptian fans in Cairo ahead

of a World Cup qualifier that the Pharaohs won 2-0 to force a play-off in Sudan

and violence also erupted in Khartoum after Algeria won the play-off to qualify

for the World Cup.

More problems flared in France, as well as in both Algeria and

Egypt. These led to political tensions between the two governments with an

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson saying the Algerian government was

responsible for the safety of Egyptians living in Algeria.

Egypt striker Amr Zaki heightened the tensions when he said on his

personal website that he would not be interested in joining English Premier

League side Portsmouth because they have two Algeria players on their books –

Nadir Belhadj and Hassan Yebda.

The bitter rivalry between the two countries dates as far back as

the 1978 All-Africa Games hosted by Algeria when the Egypt football team were

involved in a free-for-all brawl after a game against Libya. Algerian spectators

joined in on the side of the Libyans.

In 1989 Egypt beat Algeria to reach the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

After the match, midfielder Lakhdar Belloumi allegedly blinded the Egyptian team

doctor with a bottle. He was later sentenced by an Egyptian court.

The following year, Egypt refused to feature in the Nations Cup in

Algeria even after they qualified for the tournament.

The last time both teams clashed at the Nations Cup was six years

ago in the Tunisian coastal city of Sousse with Algeria running away 2-1

winners.

That was Egypt’s last loss in the event to date and they have since

compiled an unbeaten record of 17 matches in the competition.

Despite missing several of their top stars including Mohamed

Aboutrika and Amr Zaki, the Pharaohs have defied their critics with their run in

Angola.

They were stretched by Cameroon’s revenge-seeking Indomitable Lions

in Monday’s quarter-final, but they have a genuine match winner in skipper Ahmed

Hassan, who quickly got over his own goal to shoot his team into the next

round.

Veteran defender Wael Gomaa said: “Against Cameroon, we were

partially focused on the potential meeting with Algeria. This affected our

performance. We are eager to reach the final and win the cup in order to

compensate the fans after our failure to make the World Cup.”

Egypt’s Mohamed Zidan has caused some controversy by likening this

match to “a war”, which Egypt have to win to prove they are a better team than

Algeria.

Sayed Mowad has followed up by saying the champions will teach

their north African rivals a lesson in football.

“The next game will be on the pitch away from any troubles, but we

will teach the Algerians a lesson in football,” Mowad said.

Algeria, too, have been clear they have to win on Thursday to prove

that their victory last year in Sudan was not a flash-in-the-pan win.

Blackpool striker Hameur Bouazza said: “It is great playing Egypt

again as it offers us a chance to prove we beat them fairly and not through

luck.”

“We won 1-0 in Sudan through hard work and because we have a lot of

talented players. This team has got real character and team spirit is probably

our greatest strength.

In November’s World Cup decider the Algerians took a late

first-half lead, then blocked everything the Pharaohs threw at them with young

goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi playing the game of his life.

CAF officials have given assurances that despite the intense

rivalry between the nations security measures have been put in place to ensure

the safety of fans at the Ombaka Stadium.

 


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