El Merreikh Stadium, located in Khartoum Sudan, had the privilege of hosting the only world cup qualifying play off game played on African soil. The eagerly anticipated match between Egypt and Algeria would see the winner walk away with a ticket that would allow that country to enter South Africa for the 2010 FIFA world cup.
Algeria, popularly known as the desert foxes, managed to get the better of the Egyptians when they won by a solitary goal. The goal was scored towards the end of the first half by Antar Yahia superb rocketing shot, which almost ripped the roof of the net.
With both teams jointly sharing 13 points at the top of the group standing, a playoff was to decide who was going to South Africa. Five months ago, at Mustapha Tchaker stadium Algeria had beat Egypt 3-1. However, the second leg played last weekend, favored the home team where Egypt won by two goals at the intimidating Cairo International Stadium.
In the 1980s the Algerians were a force to recon with. They represented Africa in 1982 and 1986 world cup and in 1990 they won the African Nations cup as the host country. The only disappointment was the fact that they couldn’t compete in that year’s world cup, held in Italy, because Egypt had denied them a chance. Since then, Algerian football has never come back to international limelight. The win against their bitter rivals could perhaps send hopeful signal on what the future holds for them.
Egypt, widely known as the pharaohs, was the first African country to take part in the world cup. Although they are the reigning African Nations cup champions and with no doubt one of the best African football nations they are yet to translate this continental success to international glory. As fate would have it, they now find themselves feeling what the Algerians felt when they trounced over them 19 years ago.
The two North African giants will renew their rivalry in Angola next year where they will be featuring in the African Nations Cup. Until then, Algeria will just be partying.