Egypt success contrasts with World Cup form

BLOEMFONTEIN - Egypt's sensational win over Italy in the Confederations Cup on Thursday contrasts with their perilous position in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

They registered their greatest victory with a 1-0 triumph over the world champions in Johannesburg, after scoring three goals against Brazil at the start of the competition.

But in their bid to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa, Egypt have picked up just one point from their opening two matches and are bottom of their group.

Striker Mohamed Zidan's theory is African champions Egypt play better when they spend more time together in tournament situations.

"The players bond together and fight for each other," he told Reuters, referring to Egypt's wins at the last two African Nations Cup finals. "It is difficult when we get together for just a couple of days before a match."

Egypt were held to a surprise draw at home by Zambia in March in the first match of the final group phase of World Cup qualifying.

The six-times Nations Cup winners then collapsed in the second half of their game in Algeria earlier this month, losing 3-1.

Yet a week later, Egypt produced a surprising performance against Brazil, coming from 3-1 down to be denied a point by a disputed last-minute penalty.

"We want to be back here in 2010 and doing well in the Confederations Cup means we can hope to still keep the dream of playing in 2010 alive," Zidan said.

Egypt, who play the U.S. on Sunday in the Confederations Cup hoping to qualify for the semi-finals, resume their World Cup campaign on July 5 against Rwanda.

By then, the Egyptians could find themselves six points behind the leaders. Zambia and Algeria top the standings with four points and play each other on Saturday in Chililabombwe. The group winners qualify for the finals.

Egypt were the first African side to play in the World Cup finals in 1934 but have only qualified once since, in 1990.