Egypt’s exit from the Confederations Cup was blamed on burn out as the African champions turned their minds to rescuing their floundering bid to return here for next year’s World Cup finals.
A stylish 4-3 loss to Brazil and a historic 1-0 win over world champions Italy had put the Egyptians in pole position to qualify for the semi-finals in this dress rehearsal for 2010.
Hassan Shehata’s men went into Sunday’s game with their camp enveloped by a whiff of scandal after local media reports that some of the players had been robbed by prostitutes.
‘Hookers 5 Egypt 0’ was one paper’s cheeky summing up of the affair.
On the pitch they were undone by a revitalised United States who tore them apart in Sunday’s 3-0 reverse in Rustenburg to snatch the all important Group B runners-up spot.
Essam El Hadary, outstanding in goal against Brazil and Italy, was distraught.
“I am stressed and angry about the result,” said the Swiss-based stopper.
“We played very well against Brazil and we beat Italy, but here we were not the same team.
“We failed to go through to the semi-finals by a one-goal margin. It’s frustrating, but that’s football and there’s nothing you can do.”
El Hadary played most of the match looking like a WWI veteran returning from the trenches after receiving a nasty gash on his head.
“I had to get five stitches in my head, but that injury doesn’t hurt nearly as much as losing this match. I am gutted, we all are.”
Assistant coach Shawky Gharib cited player fatigue as the principal reason behind the 3-0 defeat.
“The games against Brazil and Italy have taken their toll on the players and our perfornance was not up to the level to qualify for the next round.
“I would like to congratulate the US team, due to their pressure we couldn’t play our normal game and had to resort to long balls.
“We came here to play well and win but our players were exhausted.”
After Italy had gone 3-0 down to Brazil in Pretoria Egypt were left needing just a single goal to qualify on goals scored, but that task proved frustratingly beyond them.
Despite the disappointment Gharib said it was vital now to galvanise the players ahead of their next World Cup qualifiers where they are seriously struggling.
“We have to make use of our time here to help us prepare for the World Cup qualifiers.
“Our time here will hopefully prepare the team for that campaign. Despite going out I’m quite happy as I think we can use this experience to qualify for next year’s finals.”
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