Hosts Egypt secured their place in the knockout stage of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a game to spare, after beating DR Congo 2-0 at Cairo Stadium on Wednesday in their second group match.
Midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady scored the opening goal for the Pharaohs in the 25th minute, while Liverpool star Mohamed Salah doubled their lead just before halftime, firing Egypt into the knockouts after they defeated Zimbabwe 1-0 in their first Group A match last week.
“We focused on achieving victory and getting the three points tonight. We faced some difficulties such as the high humidity, but I am very happy that we could win,” Elmohamady told reporters after the match.
Despite the victory, many Egyptian fans were unsatisfied with the team’s performance and called for a better show.
Egypt’s head coach Javier Aguirre said following the match that the players seemed exhausted during their first two matches, and said he was considering a few changes to enable his charges to play at the same level for the full 90 minutes.
“Egypt managed to control the match and win despite the decline in performance, and I am currently thinking of getting new faces onto the pitch in the coming match against Uganda,” the Mexican coach said in a press conference after the match.
The result leaves little hope for the Congolese, who also suffered a 2-0 defeat to Uganda in their first match on Saturday.
DR Congo head coach Florent Ibenge congratulated Egypt on their win, saying that his team tried to get back into the match and came close to scoring more than once.
“We have one remaining match against Zimbabwe on Sunday and we will do our best to win with the hope of qualifying for the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed finishers,” said the coach.
The draw between Zimbabwe and Uganda earlier on Wednesday keeps both their qualification hopes alive too, as the top two teams from each of the six groups, plus the best four third-placed finishers, will advance to the knockout stages.
Hosted by Egypt for the fifth time in its history, the 32nd edition of the AFCON began on June 21 and will close on July 19.
The Pharaohs are the most successful team in AFCON history, having won the title seven times in their history, including three times in a row, the latest of which was in 2010.