Despite a gallant display from the Egyptians, 15 June's 4-3 loss to Brazil has left them staring elimination in the face. To have any hope of reaching the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 semi-finals, the Pharaohs must triumph against Italy on Thursday, a game their opponents will enter full of confidence following their 3-1 victory over the United States. The statistics favour the Azzurri too, with the European giants unbeaten in their four outings on African soil and having defeated Egypt in all four meetings between the two teams. All the ingredients look to be in place to make the 100th game in FIFA Confederations Cup history one to remember.
18 June, 20:30 (local time), Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The last match between these sides dates back 55 years, making it difficult to insist on any lessons from past encounters. Egypt's recent tournament successes are harder to argue with, on the other hand, the Pharaohs having won three of the last six editions of the CAF African Cup of Nations. For many, they are Africa's team of the moment, and they certainly took Brazil to the wire in their Group B opener. This will be their first game against European opposition in the FIFA Confederations Cup.
Since lifting the FIFA World Cup™ trophy in Germany three years ago, Italy have experienced mixed fortunes. Far from convincing under Roberto Donadoni at UEFA EURO 2008, the Azzurri have started to look their old selves again since the return of Marcello Lippi, the man who steered them to glory in Berlin. They prevailed despite an inconsistent display against the US and will be eager to beat Egypt to assure themselves of an early ticket to the last four.
Hassan Shehata (EGY)-Marcello Lippi (ITA)
Both coaches demonstrated their leadership skills in their teams' opening games. For Shehata, that involved sending on Ahmed Eid to occupy the right flank after 50 minutes, his charges having been swept aside up until that point as the Auriverde kept jealous guard of the ball. Suddenly, Egypt covered the pitch with far more authority and regained possession in more advanced positions, allowing them to claw their way back into the match.
A little later in the evening, Italy began their march to victory once Lippi opted to send on two-goal Guiseppe Rossi as a free electron around his lone striker, while entrusting Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi with the task of bringing the ball forward. Those interventions helped the Azzurri pull level before giving them maximum points.
Italy 5-1 Egypt, 24 January 1954
Obliged to contest qualifiers for the first time in their history, the 1934 and 1938 FIFA World Cup winners were placed in Group 9 with just one other team, Egypt, as they targeted a place at Switzerland 1954. Italy celebrated a 2-1 success in Cairo on 13 November 1953 that allowed them to approach the return encounter at the San Siro in confident mood, but despite taking the lead through Egisto Pandolfini in the opening minute, their opponents equalised with 32 minutes gone. A shock comeback was not to be, however, as the home side stepped up a gear on the hour mark and registered four more goals.
12 - The number of 2006 FIFA World Cup winners now part of Marcello Lippi's squad. Nine of them featured in the starting XI for Italy's opening match.
Did you know?
Of all the teams competing in South Africa, Egypt have the most players playing club football on home soil. The Pharaohs' only foreign-based squad members are Essam El Hadary, who plies his trade for Swiss side Sion, Hosni Abd Rabbou of Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates, Dortmund striker Mohamed Zidan and Middlesbrough's Mohamed Shawky.
What they said
"Our first match showed that we're not just here to take part. We proved our warrior spirit and, despite the result, I'm still satisfied by our performance. This second game against Italy won't be easy and will definitely be tougher than our first, but we'll go out on the pitch with the will to do well." Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan, the most-capped player in the competition with 155 international appearances
"My squad is made up of players focused on helping the team. That helps us overcome any difficulties on the pitch. The basis of our success against the United States was our calmness and serenity. I'm convinced that these qualities will continue to help us in this tournament, starting with the match against Egypt." Italy coach Marcello Lippi.
Have your say
Will Egypt's Mohamed Zidan pose the Italian rearguard as many problems as he caused Brazil?