SAN PEDRO, Côte d’Ivoire – Egypt coach Rui Vitoria would not be drawn on his future after his side’s disappointing last-16 exit at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), blaming bad luck for the record seven-winners going home early.
“This is not the time for hasty decisions; we will think before any decision,” Portuguese coach Vitoria said when asked about his future.
“This is not the end; we did not expect the defeat. Bad luck was the reason for Egypt’s loss against DR Congo,” Vitoria added.
Egypt crashed out of the AFCON after being defeated by DR Congo as Guinea progressed to the last eight.
Record-seven time champions Egypt lost 8-7 on penalties against the Congolese after their last-16 tie ended 1-1 at the end of extra time.
Egypt departs Côte d’Ivoire without having won a game. It was a fourth draw in a row for them at the Cup of Nations, and a sixth in succession dating back to the last tournament in Cameroon, as well as and a fifth extra-time in a row in knockout games.
“The players were very good, and this is football – it has both happy and sad times.
“We prepared this team for the Africa Cup of Nations, but there are times when you put in all your effort and the result is not as expected. We need to look at our future goals.”
After no continental title since 2010, Vitoria dismissed any notion that the Egyptian’s aura had slipped.
“We cannot be like that; history proves that Egypt is a very big team, but it has undergone many changes,” he said according to supersport. “We need to set the foundations and be better in the future.”
Meschack Elia put DR Congo ahead in the Ivorian coastal city of San-Pedro in the 37th minute, only for Mostafa Mohamed to equalise for Egypt from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time.
With no further scoring, Egypt held on for a shoot-out after having Mohamed Hamdy sent off for a second booking in the first half of extra time.
They were involved in three shoot-outs in four knockout ties at the last Cup of Nations in Cameroon two years ago, when they lost the final on penalties to Senegal.
Mohamed missed the target with the Pharaohs’ second kick, but Arthur Masuaku then squandered the Leopards’ next attempt.
Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal, known as Gabaski, then put Egypt’s ninth penalty over, and Congolese ‘keeper Lionel Mpasi made no mistake to take DR Congo through to the quarter-finals.
It is a bitter pill for the Egyptians, who had come to Côte d’Ivoire hoping to win a first Cup of Nations since 2010, a year before Salah made his senior international debut.
But they stumbled out of their group with three draws, and lost the Liverpool superstar to a hamstring injury in their second game against Ghana.
He had gone back to his club to continue treatment, in the hope of being able to return for the latter stages of the competition, but now his dream of winning the title with his country remains on hold.
Meanwhile, it is the first time DR Congo has won a knockout tie at the tournament since reaching the semi-finals in 2015.
“We practised penalties a lot in training over the last few days and I knew I would need to be ready,” Mpasi, the former Paris Saint-Germain youngster now playing for Rodez in the French second tier, said according to AFP.
“When I saw Gabaski shoot, we were looking each other in the eyes and I could see he looked a bit nervous.
“When I put the ball on the spot I just tried to stay calm. I thought about the last penalty I took in training and luckily it went well.”
Guinea seals dramatic win
Sebastien Desabre’s team will head to Abidjan for a quarter-final on Friday against Guinea, who beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 earlier with a dramatic winner by Mohamed Bayo in the eighth minute of injury time.
The match at the Ebimpe Olympic Stadium was heading for extra time when Bayo, of French side Le Havre, headed in a cross by Ibrahim Diakite to spark frenzied celebrations among the Guinea team and their large support in a crowd of 36,340.
It was a historic moment for the Guinea, who had never previously won an Afcon knockout tie – they were runners-up in 1976, in an era when the final four played a round-robin format to decide the winner of the trophy.
“It means a lot. We knew that this could be a historic occasion,” said Guinea coach Kaba Diawara, who was in tears at the final whistle.
He called for calm among supporters after reports that six people had died amid celebrations in the capital Conakry after Guinea’s 1-0 group stage win over Gambia.
That was after 24 people died and hundreds more were injured in a huge blast and fire at a fuel depot in the city in December.
“We had a catastrophe in December and another after the game against Gambia. So that is enough. Let’s stay calm and enjoy this,” Diawara added.
Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea, who had midfielder Federico Bikoro sent off in the 55th minute, will wonder what might have been had captain Emilio Nsue not squandered a penalty midway through the second half.
The competition’s top scorer had the chance to net his sixth goal of this Afcon, but sent his penalty against the post and wide.
Lookman guides Nigeria past Cameroon
Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman scored both goals as Nigeria defeated old rivals Cameroon 2-0 to march into the quarter-finals.
Nigeria had an early Semi Ajayi goal disallowed after a VAR review in the round of 16 clash, before star man Victor Osimhen’s constant pressing and bullying of the Cameroonian defence led to Lookman finding the net in the 36th minute.
The Nigerian defence, which has been impenetrable at this Afcon, kept Cameroon at bay for the rest of the game, before Lookman made sure of the victory in the 90th minute in front of 22,085 fans at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.
Nigeria will return to the venue next Friday for a quarter-final meeting with Angola.
“It was a big performance from the team, we fought well from the first minute to the 100th minute,” said Lookman.