Hegazi header lifts wasteful Egypt
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Egypt were the first team in Group E to secure an all-important victory, beating Panama 1-0 in Barranquilla at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. With a point in hand for each team to start the day, Egypt appeared the likelier side to secure a vital three points and move top of Group E. The Africans enlisted a tidy passing game, exploiting the Panamanian defence down the flanks, and despite several failed attempts were finally boosted by a second-half Ahmed Hegazi header.

Panama were the first to attack, however, with Cecilio Waterman firing a left-footed effort from inside the area. Though Egypt goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi had no trouble collecting the shot.

It took a quarter of an hour for the Africans to drum-up an attack of their own and it was Aly Fathy who sent in a begging cross from the left, but Mohamed Hamdy was unable to get his foot on it. On 20 minutes, Panama were given a lifeline when Mohamed Salah’s cross from the left deflected off defender Edward Benitez into the left post. 

Hamdy then squeezed a shot away from inside the area, but Luis Mejia was well-placed to make the save. Cecilio Waterman was the individual bright spot for Panama at the other end, but after evading several defenders on the dribble, keeper Elshenawi denied his chance.

Egypt had their best chance five minutes before the break when Salah fired a fierce left-footed strike, but it flew just over the crossbar. Egypt were surely frustrated as they spurned several chances, attempting one-pass too many in Panama’s area. 

It was status quo in the second half, with Egypt coach El Sayed Diaa infuriated by his side’s indecisive attacking performance. On 54 minutes, Ibrahim was one-on-one with Mejia, but rather than shoot, slotted back to see the chance lost. It seemed as if the two sides were headed for yet another draw at these finals, but it was a defender who saved Egypt’s blushes.

Hegazi rose to glory when he nodded home a Fathy free-kick in the 67th minute, earning a precious three-points for the Egyptians. The Africans, one-step closer to progression with four points, meet Austria next on 4 August in Cartagena, while Panama have the daunting task of Brazil still ahead.