Electric Egypt hold Brazil
Brazil's FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign got off to a limp start after they were held, and for large periods outplayed, by a hugely impressive Egypt. In a gripping, chance-high first half, Danilo headed A Seleção ahead before the right-wing back's mistake allowed Omar Gaber to equalise for the Pharaohs. And that is how it finished, leaving several players to lament missed opportunities and four sides level on one point apiece in Group E, following the 0-0 draw between Austria and Panama.
Following a truly breathtaking opening ceremony, which was decorated by traditional Colombian music and dance, along with fireworks, the referee's whistle got the football under way. And if the first three matches of the FIFA U-20 World Cup produced just one goal between them, the frenetic pace at which Matchday 1's remaining contest commenced hinted that the nets in Barranquilla were set to ripple on multiple occasions.
The game exploded into life, and it took Egypt less than 60 seconds to test the nerves of the pro-Brazil crowd. Mohamed Salah eased past the challenge of Danilo down the left wing, cut inside, and dinked an effort narrowly over the bar which may have failed to trouble goalkeeper Gabriel, but certainly succeeded in animating the outnumbered but excited Egyptians.
A Seleção swiftly responded. Casemiro darted through the middle and fed Oscar, who side-stepped his opponent but shot well over from 20 metres, before Salah again raced into the area but, under pressure, shot tamely wide.
Oscar then turned provider, expertly beating Aly Fathy down the right and sending an inviting, low cross into the box that Ahmed Elshenawi did well to push away. However, the rebound fell to Gabriel Silva, who looked set to pull the trigger until Mohamed Yassin made a vital sliding challenge.
On 12 minutes Brazil broke the deadlock. Ney Franco's side had, by then, wasted several corners. However, Philippe Coutinho's cross was pinpoint and Danilo said thanks by powerfully heading it into the net from seven yards, giving Elshenawi no chance.
Many teams may have fallen to pieces; others may have tried to avoid a thrashing. Not Egypt. They went on the offensive and on 16 minutes, this almost paid dividends. A sumptuous one-two between Mohamed Hamdy and Salah resulted in the former finding himself one-on-one with Gabriel, albeit from a difficult angle. The Al Ittihad man produced a fine, low shot which was headed towards the bottom corner until the outstretched leg of the No1 saved Brazil.
Then Mohamed Ibrahim skilfully side-stepped his marker on the edge of the box, but curled his shot over the bar. An equaliser did arrive on 26 minutes, though. After Danilo missed his clearance following a right-wing cross, Omar Gaber controlled the ball inside the box and dispatched a vicious finish past Gabriel.
Egypt were in complete control, and both Hamdy and Ibrahim had opportunities to put them in front before the 35-minute mark. That is when Brazil began to enjoy a spell of possession, though they were unable to threaten Elshenawi until Oscar's impressive strike went narrowly wide of the upright.
Two minutes later a thrilling first 45 was brought to a close. It was a half in which the Africans had given their illustrious adversaries plenty of trouble.
It took just two minutes following the restart for Egypt to miss their first chance of the second half, and what a miss it was. After Brazil failed to clear a left-wing cross, Hamdy unselfishly teed up Gaber, who fired a bouncing shot wide from 12 yards out.
On 56 minutes, Casemiro released substitute forward Negueba, who fed Willian. The No9 put the ball in the back of the net only to have it ruled out for offside.
Soon after, Gabriel flapped at the ball following a corner, and it almost fell to Salah before Brazil cleared their lines. At the other end, Negueba, who certainly got involved following his introduction, blasted a rebound narrowly wide from inside a crowded box.
The action stalled thereafter, with the players appearing tired, though Dudu did make one eye-catching burst into the area before being dispossessed.
Elshenawi was stretchered off late on, but Brazil had insufficient time to trouble his replacement, Mohamed Awwad. It was a night to forget for the South Americans. It was one to remember for Egypt – and one that could have returned three points rather than one had their finishing matched their build-up play.