By Salma Abdullah
Egypt was held to a 1-1 draw by Botswana on Tuesday in an exhibition game ahead of the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
37-year-old defender Wael Gomaa gifted the visitors a six-minute lead by playing a poor back pass to the goalkeeper, Sherif Ekramy. It was intercepted by Botswana’s striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane, who struck the ball past Ekramy to put his team in the lead.
At the half-hour mark, Botswana almost doubled their lead, but Ekramy palmed the shot away for a corner.
Fiorentina’s central defender Ahmed Hegazy scored Egypt an equaliser at 38 minutes in his first appearance for Egypt since rupturing his circulate knee ligament in December. A cross from Ahmed El-Mohamady allowed Hegazy to score his first international goal in his 14th match with the national team.
Shortly after the break, substitute Ahmed Eid almost scored but his shot hit the post and bounced away.
In the second half, Botswana played a defensive game, relying on counter attacks while Egypt dominated possession but missed a number of opportunities to take the lead. Pharaohs’ manager Bob Bradley made six substitutes in the second half that failed to change the scoreline.
Mohamed Salah and Mohamed El-Neny who helped Basel win the Swiss league stayed on the bench, as well as veteran playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika to rest them ahead of the upcoming crucial games.
“Hegazy’s return was one of the main advantages of the match, not only because he scored but also for his performance throughout,” Bradley said in a brief press conference following the match. “We didn’t perform well tonight. We improved in the second half, but the overall performance wasn’t up to our standards.”
Sports Minister El-Amry Farouk met with the players after the match and encouraged them to put forth their maximum effort in the next two matches to secure a place in the final round of World Cup qualifiers.
Egypt, which is trying to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, will face Zimbabwe on 9 June before flying to play against Mozambiquea week later.