Two semi-finals that tell almost the exact opposite tales. ROW edging Malaysia in an 8-goal thriller, and Egypt enduring a much less dramatic semifinal with a walkover against Sudan, who could not field a complete team, and had to forfeit the game.
We sat down with experts and team captains to preview the final round of nations cup 2019 football, discussing the main talking points of the respective matchups and key factors to pay attention to in the upcoming matches.
Team Egypt had attained massive victories over Pakistan (13 – 0), India (6 – 0) before staving off a fightback from Rest of the World (ROW) to win 3 – 2 in the final group game. Malaysia meanwhile had a straightforward journey through the group stage with wins over Maldives, Sri Lanka, & Sudan of score lines 8 – 0, 2 – 0, and 6 – 1 respectively. Team ROW won comfortably against India and Pakistan, 6 – 0 & 8 – 0 respectively before losing to Egypt in a close-knit affair.
On the Egyptian front, we talked to Omar Khaled Fouad Aly Elshweekh about the pressure that the current Egyptian side was facing as last year’s champions. If Egypt win this year’s gold medal match, they will make it three nations cup football titles in a row, the first nation in history to be able to manage that feat.
Omar made it clear that the result of the gold match game was not something anyone can predict, admitting that it can swing either way. Omar laid out what he thinks are the determining factors in the final which include the temper in the Egyptian team, the team that scores first, Saleh’s injury, ROW’s physical capacity, and Egyptian team chemistry. He also, made a bold prediction that it will be an easy bronze match for Malaysia as he pointed out were up against an incomplete Sudan team.
Jamaal Fazal Careem, speaking on behalf of the ROW highlighted how badly the team wants to bring home gold. He told us that ROW are determined to fight tooth and nail for the gold medal in the final. He also discussed the previous encounter between Egypt and ROW in the last group game, which Egypt narrowly won 3 – 2. This has only added fuel to the team’s burning desire to triumph this year. Jamaal is confident that the boys will come back strong in the final with a point to prove.
He also emphasized on the importance of composure in such a high-stakes game. Jamaal is hoping for ROW 2 – 1 win. But he also iterated that the Egyptian side has gone and done the business before and are by far the most experienced side in the competition.
Bronze: Malaysia 6 – 1 Sudan
Having met before in the group stage which resulted in a 6 – 1 thrashing by the Malaysians, this fixture was painted by some as a foregone conclusion.
Although they under performed in this year’s tournament, it was a year of growth with a new & young Malaysian core consolidating their place in the UNM Malaysia team for years to come. Unfortunately, not the same could be said of the Sudan team.
They were a team at the end of a cycle. The great and all-conquering Sudan team that romped to two nations cup football titles in 2014 & 2015 and three consecutive nations cup futsal titles in 2014, 2015, & 2016, had been losing their quality with players leaving upon graduation, and it was showing. A team that was seemingly shoehorned together for a final showing, never posed a real threat to the Harimau of Malaysia.
In the bronze game however, they did give Malaysia a big old scare, equalizing via a Malaysian own goal after going 1 – 0 down in the opening minutes. Malaysia having faced Sudan before, never lost their cool.
Half time: Malaysia 2 – 1 Sudan
Admittedly, Malaysia did have a bit of a shaky and nervous first half, as depicted by the slender 1 goal advantage at the break. Nevertheless, the jitters quickly went away, and Malaysia too, quickly reinstated their dominance over Sudan with 4 unanswered goals in the 2nd half.
Gold: ROW 4 – 1 Egypt
Egypt, the reigning nations cup football champions, looking to make it a record three titles on the bounce take on the Rest of the World (ROW), the best of the rest with the record number of runners-up finishes, looking to break their duck and win their first ever nations cup football title.
Both sets of fans reminded the players what was expected with their chants and cheers. Spurring on the title holders to score with an overhead kick after ROW failed to clear an in-swinging cross from the left flank. The ball looped over the helpless ROW goalkeeper, into the opposite side of the net. Egypt was ahead.
This goal was met by a silent defiance in the ROW rank, and it showed as they roared back into the game. Adamant to win every tackle, chase every ball, and determined to make life difficult for their opponents. ROW proceeded to seize control of the game and peppered the Egyptians with numerous shots, only denied by saves from the goalkeeper.
Not long after going behind, ROW came back through a brilliant team goal down the right hand side. The striker coolly slotted past the Egyptian goal keeper from a cut back inside the box.
Egypt knew they had to respond and restart the game with the immediate intent of looking for another goal. However, ROW defended resolutely and found more space behind the Egyptian defense when the latter pushed to attack the former.
A swift counterattack down the right-wing set-up ROW’s number 10 outside the box, who found the back of the net with a searing volley, dipping out of the Egyptian goalkeeper’s reach and sending ROW into the lead.
Half time: ROW 2 – 1 Egypt
Egyptians were visibly upset with their performance having gone ahead first and set out to rectify their mistakes. They began the 2nd half with fierce attacking intent but were matched by a persistent defensive display.
Just when the game seemed to be drifting away from them, Dean, ROW’s Mr. Reliable simply decided that he was having none of it. He took the game by the scruff of the neck and lashed a pile driver aimed into the top corner. ROW 3 – 1 Egypt.
Egypt didn’t know how to respond. From this point, they played with desperation, forcing every pass, overextending every attack. They looked down and out. They were met with further dejection, when ROW firmly put the result out of question by scoring a fourth goal bringing the score to 4 – 1.
As the referee blew the whistle, the sun set on the Egyptian reign of nations cup football, and the floodlights of the pitch lit up what was a new era of triumph in nations cup football championed by the Black Tigers, ROW.
Ameer Danial Bin Abdul Jamal