Egypt hailed its shock victory over world champions Italy in the Confederations Cup as one of its best ever, but for Marcello Lippi’s men it was a disaster.
The African Nations Cup holders stunned the Italians 1-0 late on Thursday as they cracked under pressure to leave their tournament fate in limbo.
Mohamed Homos scored the only goal in the 40th minute to hand them a famous victory in front of 51,000 fans, but they also had goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary to thank for pulling off a string of fine saves.
Egypt and Italy are now level on three points in Group B with the Pharoahs favourites to go through to the semi-finals.
They face the United States on Sunday while Italy must play Brazil, who have two wins out of two so far.
“We played better than them for the 90 minutes. This will go down in Egyptian history as they are the world champions,” said Egypt deputy coach Shawky Gharib.
“Playing them was a scary feeling at times but we controlled the match and excelled.
“We were playing in the name of African football because we represent Africa and we did Africa proud.”
Lippi put a brave face on their loss, but will be hugely disappointed knowing his team face an uphill task against Brazil to make the business end of the tournament.
“Egypt played two very good matches, a fantastic second half against Brazil and an excellent first half against us,” he said, referring to Egypt’s agonising 4-3 loss to the South Americans.
“We picked it up after half time and the players always have the will to react, but they didn’t make it because their goalie was fantastic.
“We almost got the ball in the net three or four times, I think we deserved at least one goal.”
Egypt made one change from their last match and it was an inspired move, with Homos replacing 35-year-old captain Ahmed Hassan.
Lippi welcomed back his captain Fabio Cannavaro, who missed their 3-1 win over the United States with a calf strain, and brought in Fabio Quagliarella and Giuseppe Rossi, their two-goal hero from Monday.
The game started quietly with AC Milan defender Gianluca Zambrotta having Italy’s first shot on goal after seven minutes, but it was a feeble effort that didn’t trouble El Hadary.
Villarreal’s American-born striker Rossi let rip with a left foot rocket soon after only to see it flash over the bar as Italy pressed the attack.
But Egypt also had their moments, with Mohamed Aboutrika causing problems in the Italian box.
It was Italy, though, who looked more likely to score with Juventus man Vincenzo Iaquinta and Rossi both forcing saves from Al-Hadary within the space of a minute midway through the half.
Not to be outdone, Egypt responded with a sustained period of pressure that ended with the goal from Homos who rose to meet a corner from Aboutrika and head the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.
The Italians had also gone one down against the United States and fought back to win, and they began the second half with a sense of urgency.
They should have equalised when Iaquinta found himself unmarked in the box but his control was poor and Al-Hadary scrambled the ball clear.
Lippi brought Luca Toni on and took Rossi off but Italy couldn’t find the breakthrough with Al-Hadary solid as a rock in the Egyptian goal, pulling off save after save to keep his team in front.
Italy had one last chance as the seconds ticked down but AC Milan’s Andrea Pirlo sent his freekick over the bar to end a miserable night for Italy and a memorable one for Egypt.
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