The script in Baranquilla had been written in a canary-yellow font. After a plethora of Colombian performers wowed spectators with an exhilarating opening ceremony, a Brazilian thrill machine was afforded the FIFA U-20 World Cup stage, on which they were expected to produce their own breathtaking arrival parade on Friday evening. A crop of Egyptians largely alien outside their homeland had been assigned as their victims.
Yet 15 minutes after the referee's whistle had blown for the final time a the Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Dominguez, the South Americans in the funky grey tracksuits began to traipse out of their dressing room, their heads bowed with sullen expressions. In an emotional paradox, Omar Gaber bounced out of Egypt's quarters, his eyes wide with enthusiasm, his face showcasing a smile that could have illuminated the whole of Cairo.
And the Zamalek attacking midfielder's mood was unequivocally vindicated. Egypt had ripped up the aforementioned script with a 1-1 draw. His right boot had seized them that point.
“It is something I will always remember,” Gaber enthused to FIFA.com. Yet the Egypt No18 was not referring to his 26th-minute strike, but the unforeseen, uplifting support his team received from the spectators.
He continued: “Egipto, Egipto, Egipto! We could hear the fans all the way through. It was incredible, really encouraging. I want to say a really big thank you to the people of Baranquilla.”
It was amazing to hear the chants. Egipto, Egipto, Egipto! We are used to this from fans of our own teams in the Egyptian league, but to have it here in Baranquilla was remarkable.
Mohamed Hamdy, who was an incessant menace to the Brazilian defenders, offered earnest, self-deprecating responses to questions about his own wonderful display and a result that, albeit officially a draw, was commemorated wholly like a victory by Egyptians. When talk turned to the atmosphere in Baranquilla, however, a broad beam erupted over the No9's face as his tone adopted a passionate verve.
“It was amazing to hear the chants,” Hamdy said. “We could here them right from the start: Egipto, Egipto, Egipto! We are used to this from fans of our own teams in the Egyptian league, but to have it here in Baranquilla was remarkable. This incredible support made us even more determined to win, to repay the fans.”
If performing on such a prestigious platform for the first time was not enough to give the Egyptians stage fright, the fact that they were up against celebrated players such as Danilo, Casemiro, Coutinho and Oscar would have been to many. So how exactly did the Pharaohs overcome these barriers?
Hamdy attributed credit to the Egyptian plot's mastermind, El Sayed Diaa. He explained: “Our coach told us, 'Don't think about their names, about what they've done. Treat them as you would any other opponents. Go out there and play your own game.”
And that the north Africans did from the outset, registering their first shot in the first 60 seconds, and even after Brazil had taken the lead. "Maybe we could have won," said Gaber. "We didn't win, we didn't lose, but I think it was a good result because we played well and Brazil are a very good team.
“But the match is in the past. Now we have got to concentrate on beating Panama and getting into the next round. We want to reach the semi-finals, the final.”
Hamdy believes the enormous upside of holding one of the tournament favourites has a downside to it. “Getting a good result against Brazil will make it more difficult for us against Panama, because now they'll look at the result and take us more seriously. And we've also raised expectations.
“It's up to us to deal with them. We can't go thinking that because of that [Brazil] result it will be easy. We have to stick to our coach's plan. And hopefully the people of Baranquilla help us again with such great support.”
If Egypt's 12th man continues to act as influentially as Gaber and Hamdy affirm it did on Friday, maybe coach Diaa's post-match declaration that his team can lift the trophy in Bogota on 20 August may be more than the pipe-dream many reckoned it to be. After all, they have already made a mockery of one script.