African champions Egypt showed no ill-effects from their dramatic 4-3 opening defeat against Brazil to record a memorable 1-0 win over world champions Italy at Ellis Park - the decisive goal coming via Mohamed Homos's pinpoint header. The victory takes the Pharaohs level on points with the Azzurri and sets up a dramatic finale to Group B.
After a steady start to the game, it was Italy who offered the greater threat early on. Giuseppe Rossi in particular was a lively presence in a wide forward role, clearly determined to build on his brace against the USA and show Marcello Lippi he was worthy of a starting berth.
Indeed it was Rossi who earned the game's first clear chance, latching on to a ball just inside the box after 11 minutes before sending a left-foot effort flashing over the bar. Meanwhile at the other end, the Italian defence had obviously done their homework on Egypt forward Mohamed Zidan, with Cannavaro and Co denying the Borussia Dortmund livewire the space he enjoyed when scoring twice against the Auriverde.
On 24 minutes, Rossi called Essam El Hadary into his first meaningful action of the game, driving towards the edge of the box before firing a stinging effort goalwards which the custodian did well to tip over the bar. Back came Egypt through danger-man Mohamed Aboutrika, who made a storming run down the left-hand channel before playing a one-two with Zidan whose return ball narrowly failed to send the Al Ahly man through on goal.
And though the pre-match talk had surrounded the vulnerability of Hassan Shehata's men from set-pieces, it was via a corner kick that the Egyptians took the lead just five minutes before the interval. An excellent delivery from Aboutrika found Mohamed Homos, who had shaken his marker Daniele De Rossi before nodding a header just inside the far post.
Desperate to get back on terms, the Italians poured men forward in the second half but were left rueing a succession of wasted chances. Juventus forward Vincenzo Iaquinta was particularly profligate, failing to take advantage of two gilt-edged opportunities to drag the Nazionale level. After a poor first touch had let him down on 54 minutes, a quarter of an hour later he rolled his defender superbly to go one-on-one with the keeper but blasted his effort straight at El Hadary, who saved with his legs.
The Egyptian custodian was in fine form again on 73 minutes, when a cut-back from the left byline reached Riccardo Montolivo near the penalty spot, but his firmly-hit effort was too close to the shotstopper. And the keeper was again called upon to deny Iaquinta four minutes later, the forward latching onto Andrea Pirlo's superb centre before hitting a low volley on target which El Hadary did excellently to stop at his near post.
But his good work was very nearly marred by a lapse in judgement on 86 minutes, when he was totally bamboozled by Iaquinta's cross-come-shot and could only watch as it bounced off his far post and away. That was as good as it got for the Italians, who now face Group B top dogs Brazil in their final game on 21 June. For the triumphant Pharaohs, meanwhile, a win against section bottom side the United States would give them every chance of a semi-final berth.