Twenty years ago yesterday, Egyptians took to the streets to celebrate their qualification for the FIFA World Cup™ after a 1-0 win over Algeria in Cairo. Will history repeat itself on Wednesday in the play-off match between the pair in Sudan, as qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa draws to a close?
FIFA.com spoke to both fans and players who were at that match 20 years ago, and who were happy to give their predictions for tonight’s game. Mohammed Abdel-Raouf was among the fans at the stadium on 17 November 1989 and said that jubilation was the overriding emotion that night. "The stadium could hold 120,000 people back then and it was absolutely packed.
"It was a very difficult match, as the Algerians had stars like Madger and Belloumi. Our team also had stars like Hossam Hassan, as well as legendary coach Mahmoud Al-Gohari. When Hossam Hassan scored our first goal, we erupted with joy. After the match, we celebrated the win in the streets of Cairo well into the night."
Asked if he had a prediction for tonight’s game, he said, "This time round, our hopes are even higher and we have more faith in our team than ever. We’ve been crowned African champions twice in a row, how can anyone doubt that we’ll qualify?"
Former Egyptian international Ahmed El-Kass, who was part of the 1989 team, said, "The match in 1989 was really difficult, but I must admit that the one last Saturday was even tougher. Our team arrived at the stadium with just one aim: to win by at least two goals in order to draw level with Algeria. What’s more, this Egypt side have won the last two CAF Africa Cup of Nations, so expectations were extremely high. So far the players have kept a level head despite the huge pressure they’re under. We’re sure that they’ll overcome this hurdle and book their place at South Africa 2010."
It is clear that there are a host of similarities between the 1989 and 2009 matches. In addition to the match being held in the same week and at the same stadium, Hossam Hassan’s goal in 1989 was scored after just five minutes, while Amr Zaki netted in the third minute last Saturday. The Egyptians are therefore brimming with confidence and firmly believe they can qualify for next summer’s festival of football in South Africa.
Unsurprisingly, Algerian fans had a very different outlook. Mostafa Moughni shared his thoughts with us: "The teams are equally matched on all scores, and we’ll be playing on a neutral ground, so we each have the same chance of winning. However, I don’t think Egypt can beat our national team twice in four days – that would be very difficult, if not impossible!"
So who will win on Wednesday? Can Egypt repeat history, or will Algeria spring a surprise? Whatever happens, football fans will be served up a treat in a match where passions will be running high. The winner will qualify for their third FIFA World Cup, Egypt having previously qualified in 1934 and 1990, and Algeria in 1982 and 1986.