JOHANNESBURG - Egypt scored their greatest ever victory with a thoroughly deserved 1-0 win on Thursday over world champions Italy who had never previously lost to an African team. The shock result means Group B in the Confederations Cup hangs in the balance with all four teams still able to progress to next week's semi-finals. Mohamed Hommos's goal five minutes before halftime clinched the first points of the tournament for the African champions, who narrowly lost 4-3 to Brazil in their opening game. Most of the Egyptians and coach Hassan Shehata shed tears of joy at the final whistle as they became the first African side in 15 attempts to beat the Italians. Key second half saves from veteran goalkeeper Essam Al Hadari, who had an inspired match, kept the Italians at bay while Vincenzo Iaquinta hit the crossbar with just minutes remaining as Egypt weathered a late onslaught. GOOD TEAMS "All the teams today are very good. You always have to be at your best," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi. "We tried some different things. It didn't go very well. "We didn't do the things we'd prepared and wanted to do. We played a bad first half. We did very well in the second. Their keeper made three or four very difficult saves." Brazil, who beat the United States in Pretoria earlier on Thursday, lead the standings with six points while Italy and Egypt have three. Brazil and Italy meet in Pretoria on Sunday while the Egyptians play the Americans, who have yet to pick up a point, in Rustenburg at the same time. Despite losing both games the U.S. still have a remote chance of getting through to the last four. Lippi made five changes to the team that started against the U.S. on Monday, with the return of fit-again captain Fabio Cannavaro, winning his 124th cap -- two short of Paolo Maldini's all-time Italian record of 126. Cannavaro, typically, added steel to the Italian defence, while Giuseppe Rossi, who came on as a substitute and scored twice against the U.S., added youthful zest to the attack. Both teams enjoyed plenty of possession in their first meeting since Italy beat Egypt 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier 55 years ago, but it was a still a real surprise when the Egyptians took the lead five minutes before the break. POWERFUL HEADER Italy only had themselves to blame, leaving Hommos unmarked to score with a powerful header from Mohamed Aboutrika's perfect inswinging corner. The Italians had also trailed the U.S. 1-0 at the break in their opening match, before coming back strongly to win. But Egypt held their nerve and their ground despite Italy bringing in attacking reinforcements Luca Toni, Simone Pepe and Riccardo Montolivo in the second half. They might have known it was not to be their night when Al Hadari made two fine stops in two minutes in the first half from Iaquinta after 24 minutes and Rossi, who forced the keeper into another fine save when he palmed the ball over the bar. Egypt, despite winning only once in their last five matches and getting off to a poor start in their final World Cup qualifying group, never looked overawed by the Italians. Mohamed Shawky and Sayed Moawad gave as good as they got in the midfield battle for supremacy, with Italy's Gennaro Gattuso, De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo battling to cope with the inventiveness of the African champions' approach play. Both teams threatened after the break, and Al Hadari made another excellent save from Montolivo after 74 minutes to keep Egypt in the lead. Iaquinta almost equalised for Italy five minutes from time, only to see his long range curling shot hit the bar and Italy's hopes of winning the game bounce away with it.
18 June 2009
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