The last time Egypt played against Ghana in a qualifying match for the FIFA World Cup™, the Pharaohs ran out 2-1 winners, yet the Black Stars left the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo celebrating after a famous 6-1 first-leg victory had all but sewn up the tie and their place at Brazil 2014.
On Sunday, the Egyptians will be looking for revenge at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria in the second match, and more importantly, hoping to take control of Group E in the final stage on the road to Russia 2018. Ghana go into the game with some pressure, as they were held to a goalless draw at home by Uganda in their opening match, while Egypt secured a 2-1 victory in Brazzaville against Congo.
Both sides have downplayed the importance of their 2013 encounter in as far as it relates to Sunday's game. "What happened in the 6-1 game was one-off, it's very unlikely to happen again. There is no revenge in football and I'm sure the team will forget this painful memory, if we beat Ghana," said Egypt coach Hector Cuper.
The Egyptians, who have only qualified for one World Cup in the last 80 years, are confident of victory, though. “We want to win to strengthen our hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup," winger Ramadan Sobhi said. "We don’t want to wait five more years to start the 2022 qualifiers. The Egyptian people really want to qualify, and I tell them that the players really want to as well.
"I promise the fans that we [won’t] want them to leave the stadium feeling down, and that we will do our best to make them happy.”
Injuries hit Ghana
Ghana got off to a flying start against Egypt in Kumasi three years ago, as Asamoah Gyan opened the scoring after just five minutes. At the break, the Black Stars were leading 3-1 and then added another three goals after the restart. For then-Egypt coach Bob Bradley, the defeat was the worst in his long career. "I am sorry for all the Egyptian fans. I came here to get to the World Cup, but we could not qualify. I am sad because I wanted to make the fans happy. We did our best, but the first match made it an almost impossible task for us.”
One of the players in the Ghana squad for the play-offs was Prince Boateng, who scored his side's goal in the 2-1 defeat in the return leg. He said that the 6-1 victory was a historic one. “Ghana has a rich tradition in Africa, but to win such an important game 6-1 is just unbelievable. The side did so well in Kumasi and the defeat in the return pained a bit, but made no difference at the end of the day.”
The Black Stars will have their work cut out for them, if they want to avoid a repeat of the result of the 2013 match in Egypt, as they will be without Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alfred Duncan for the game in Alexandria.
Coach Avram Grant, though, is confident that he has the players to overcome the injuries. "We have a big squad, but we need to show great fighting spirit to win without them. We have shown that with the right team spirit, and obviously if we play like a team, we can achieve a positive result.
"Egypt are a very good team, I think it's a good generation for them. They've built the team over the past two years," the 61-year-old said, adding: "They've kept stability and are doing well. Their key players are also doing well with their respective clubs. I don't need to mention names, but they have six or seven top-class players.”