Zidan revels in electric atmosphere
Mohamed Homos scored the only goal five minutes from half-time when he headed in a corner from Mohamed Aboutrika, before goalkeeper Essam El Hadary produced a string of fine saves to help them hold on for all three points. It capped a memorable win for the defending CAF African Cup of Nations winners, who now move level on points with the Italians in Group B and have an outstanding chance to qualify for the semi-finals with a game against USA still to come.
More than 50,000 supporters watched the game in Johannesburg and Zidan admitted that it felt like playing in Cairo. "What happened today gives us a great feeling," he said afterward. "It was a fantastic victory and makes us very proud.
"I think the way the crowd got behind us was excellent and it motivated us a lot towards the end. It was great and almost a feeling like playing at home in Egypt. I think we had a very good experience with the atmosphere today."
The thrilling performance from Hassan Shehata's men comes on the back of another outstanding display in their opening game against Brazil, when they held their own only to be beaten 4-3 courtesy of a last-gasp penalty from Kaka. Zidan continued: "We knew that Italy would prepare well after seeing the way we played against Brazil.
"We just said that we will try much better than we did against Brazil, try and cut out the same mistakes and it worked very well for us. Our group was the hardest group, but we are doing well as African champions, which is good."
Despite their progress in the tournament, the Egyptians continue to struggle in 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying, where they are bottom of their group with a single point from two games. Asked about their sudden turn in fortunes, the Borussia Dortmund player added: "I think we had a hard time during the last two games of qualification. It wasn't as good as we expected. But then we realised that we have to improve a lot if want to be at the World Cup.
"The team is very good at standing together when we spend a long time at a training camp. By this I mean, when we stay together for a long time, we then play much better than if we were only together for five or six days.
"This is like what we did together at the Nations Cup the last two times in Egypt and in Ghana and now we're seeing the same thing in South Africa here. We are having enough time to prepare well for the games and the coaching staff are also having time to prepare the players."
Italy coach Marcello Lippi felt his side did not show enough initiative, despite deserving a goal. He said: "I think the beginning of the game was not bad, but towards the end of the first half we were very poor.
"We played nicely in the second half and we created a few opportunities. But I think my players did lack some initiative. I think their goalkeeper was fantastic. We almost had the ball in the goal three or four times, but he kept us out. I think we deserved at least one goal."