Zambia came from behind to force a 1-1 draw with Egypt at Cairo Stadium on Sunday as the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying shocks in Africa continued.
Wigan striker Amr Zaki put the 'Pharaohs' ahead on 27 minutes only for defender Dennis Banda from Lusaka army club Green Buffalos to equalise early in the second half. Egypt, winners of the previous two biennial CAF African Cup of Nations, will be bitterly disappointed at failing to get their third-round campaign off to a winning start at home.
Although winners of the African championship a record six times, Egypt have featured at the FIFA World Cup only once since qualifying was introduced in 1960, and that was 19 years ago in Italy. The shock result at the 70,000-seat national stadium in the Egyptian capital came 24 hours after unexpected victories for Togo and Gabon over Cameroon and Morocco respectively in Group A.
Such was the embarrassment of riches at the disposal of coach Hassan Shehata that he could afford to leave midfield stars Mohamed Aboutrika and Hosny Abd Rabou and Wigan striker Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam on the substitutes bench. Aboutrika and 'Mido' were introduced after Zambia levelled but could not turn the tide as the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) grew in stature to hold Egypt once again.
When Egypt won the African Cup of Nations in Ghana last year Zambia were the only opponent they failed to defeat with their group clash also ending in a 1-1 stalemate. France-born Zambia coach Herve Renard had asked his team to draw inspiration from the shock victory of English Premiership club Fulham over Manchester United last weekend and they heeded the call.
This result is another boost to the growing reputation of Renard, 39, who guided Zambia to third place at the CAF African Nations Championship in Abidjan a few weeks ago and is wanted by Senegal and Ivory Coast club ASEC Mimosas. Rwanda and Algeria drew 0-0 in Kigali on Saturday in the other Group C match leaving the four contenders with one point each ahead of the next games in June when Algeria host Egypt and Zambia have home advantage over Rwanda.
A first-minute goal from Saudi Arabia-based striker Prince Tagoe earned Ghana a 1-0 victory over Benin in the central city of Kumasi and top place in Group D after Sudan and Mali drew 1-1 in Omdurman. The five group winners qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup with hosts South Africa, and the top three finishers in each pool to join hosts Angola at the African Cup of Nations earlier the same year.