Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick as Egypt beat Zimbabwe 4-2 today to maintain a perfect 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying record. The Pharaohs top Group G with 12 points from four victories and could win it later Sunday if second-place Guinea fail to collect maximum points at home against Mozambique.
Congo and Tunisia drew in Gabon and Sierra Leone respectively Saturday, leaving Egypt as the only one of the 40 second-stage competitors boasting a 100 per cent record.
It was a disappointing outcome for Zimbabwe at a sunny but chilly National Stadium in Harare after losing narrowly in Cairo three months ago, and they remain bottom of the table and have now been officially knocked-out of the running for Brazil 2014. Salah, who helped Swiss club Basel reach the UEA Europa League semi-finals this year, put Egypt ahead for the second time just before half-time and bagged a second-half brace.
Veteran midfielder Mohamed Abou Trika put the visitors ahead on five minutes and Germany-based Knowledge Musona levelled midway through the half before Salah opened his account. Salah scored again on 76 minutes and substitute Knowledge Billiat reduced arrears only for the Egyptian to complete his hat-trick and condemn Zimbabwe to a third loss in four outings.
Although Egypt won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times between 1957 and 2010, they have appeared at the FIFA World Cup only twice, and the last time was 24 years ago.
Cameroon come unstuck
Meanwhile, Cameroon surrendered first place in Group I to Libya on goal difference after a mini-revival came to an abrupt halt with a 2-0 defeat by Togo in Lome. Shrugging off the absence of unavailable star Emmanuel Adebayor, the Sparrow Hawks scored in each half through Komlan Amewou and substitute Lalawele Atakora.
Cameroon, who lost all three matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and failed to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, were playing their first competitive game under coach Volker Finke and lacked injured star Samuel Eto'o. The German, who has no coaching experience in Africa, replaced short-serving local Jean-Paul Akono last month.
Jonathan Pitroipa, voted the best footballer at the 2013 Cup of Nations in South Africa, threw a lifeline to Burkina Faso with the goal that edged Niger 1-0 in Niamey. It left the Stallions, who finished runners-up to Nigeria in the Africa Cup this year, four points behind Group E frontrunners Congo, with the pair set to clash in Pointe-Noire next weekend.
A first-half brace from Islam Slimani set up Group H leaders Algeria for a 3-1 triumph in Benin with Nabil Ghilas adding a match-clinching third goal after coming off the bench. This was a must-win match for third-place Benin and Rudy Gestede opened the scoring at Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo, but Badarou Nana Nafiou got a second-half red card as they hunted an equaliser.
Mali, who began the weekend level on points with Algeria, suffered a serious setback when held 1-1 at home by ten-man Rwanda with Mahamodou Ndiaye avoiding defeat for the host by cancelling out a Meddy Kagere goal. Bottom-of-the-table Rwanda had Haruna Niyonzima sent off in Bamako after being yellow carded a second time on 65 minutes and the Wasps did well to dodge defeat.