By overhauling a 3-0 deficit against Egypt in their second match of the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004, Ukraine pulled off a great escape to avoid early elimination from the tournament. Both sides now have three points in the bag, and both can still qualify for the second round provided they win their final group game. A suspenseful night looks in the offing on Thursday…
"We never lost hope, even when we were three goals behind," insisted Ukraine coach Gennadiy Lisenchuk after the match. "Then our first goal helped things considerably. Now, we must simply play well and beat Chinese Taipei to go through."
Just as in their opening match with Spain (2-0), the Ukrainians were somewhat slow off the mark. The Egyptians, by contrast, were perfectly focused, taking advantage of their opponents' lethargy to open the scoring through Wael Abdel Mawla (1-0, 4'). The loss stirred Ukraine into life, and with six minutes gone, Lisenchuk's lads came close to an equaliser when Shaytanov struck the post and Kosenko was thwarted by the Egyptian keeper.
Watched by the teams from Spain (still dripping from the showers), Czech Republic and Australia, the Ukrainians were slowly turning the screw on the African champions. But Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed Sayed was in sparkling form, making stop after stop to keep the Ukrainians at bay. His resilience was rewarded when, from another lightning counter-attack, Egypt doubled their advantage through that man Wael Abdel Mawla again (2-0, 19'). As things stood at the break (2-0), Ukraine were out of this FIFA Futsal World Championship 2004, and Egypt were in the second round.
With just a minute played after the restart, there was no sign of this trend being reversed, as Egypt snatched another courtesy of their captain, Gehad Sayed (3-0, 21'). This was the cue for a frenetic assault by Ukraine, only too aware they now required at least three goals to have any hope of staying in the competition and justifying their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Koridze soon sparked a flicker of hope in Ukrainian hearts when he outfoxed Mohamed Sayed (3:1, 26').
Abdel Mawla misses equaliser
As the blue and yellow wave rolled relentlessly towards the Egyptian goal, Gehad Sayed chose the worst possible moment to score an own goal (3-2, 28'). The last ten minutes were now sure to be edge-of-the-seat stuff, and when Kovalyov exploited a gap in Egypt's defence to equalise (3-3, 34'), you could have cut the tension in Taipei city NTU with a knife. The game was literally anyone's at this point and nerves began to play an increasingly important part in proceedings.
Egypt were beginning to forget the basics, allowing Mansurov to go through almost unchallenged on their keeper. The Ukrainian player needed no second invitation and gave his side the lead for the first time on the night (4-3, 35'). Worse still for the North Africans, Samir Sabry Abdou picked up a second yellow card one minute later, leaving his cohorts four against five for the final two minutes and a gaping hole in the defence. Although the Egyptian goalkeeper postponed the inevitable with a string of fine saves, he was powerless to prevent another Koridze strike (5-3, 38').
But Egypt were not dead yet. Wael Abdel Mawla gave his side hope (5-4, 38'), only to then spurn a great chance to equalise. Then, with just 33 seconds left on the clock, Koridze committed his team's sixth foul, a potentially fatal error that gave Egypt a free kick from ten yards out. Wael Abdel Mawla ran up… and blazed wide of the Ukrainian goal. The Ukrainians had the victory they craved, and Egypt were left facing a daunting obstacle. To qualify, they will need to overcome reigning world champions Spain.
"I am not too disappointed, despite missing out on three important points today," declared Mwafak Badry, Egypt's general manager after the dust had settled. "I want to focus on how we played in the first half. Against Spain, I don't care if it's not pretty, but we have to win. 1-0 would do me nicely."