In tense game, Egypt beat Algeria forcing playoff

Cairo, Nov 15 (DPA) Egypt defeated Algeria 2-0 at their football World Cup qualifier match, setting up a playoff later this month between the two teams, who have seen tensions between them escalate in recent days.

The win sent jubilant Egyptians to the streets, with throngs of people celebrating into the night in various parts of the country Saturday.

In Cairo, main routes were blocked as fans on foot and in vehicles took over the roads. Many had their face painted red, black and white – the national colours – and were waving Egyptian flags, banging on drums and honking their car horns.

Crowds of youngsters gathered at street corners across the city and sang out slogans and chants to booming music. Others danced as aerosol cans were lit up into bright flames.

Some 74,000 people were estimated to be in attendance for the game at the city’s main stadium, with some 2,000 seats reserved for Algerian supporters.

Just two minutes into the game Egypt scored, sparking early hopes for the fans. However, tension reigned for most of the contest, as the next goal in the physical match-up would only come over 90 minutes of play later.

Egypt had to win by at least three goals to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals but with the result was still able to force a playoff.

In what appeared to be preparatory moves requested by FIFA, the governing body of world football, Egyptian security forces were dispersed widely, with riot gear and extra manpower on the ready.

The Algerian embassy was particularly placed under protection and police blocked off access within a two-street radius of the building.

Concerns were raised Friday, after violence in Algeria Thursday targeted Egyptian families, apparently in retaliation for an alleged attack that day by crowds of Egyptian football fans on the Algerian national team in Cairo.

In a statement, FIFA said its World Cup Organizing Committee has asked the Egyptian Football Association “and the highest authorities through the relevant ministries” to provide written guarantees for “necessary additional safety and security measures” for the Algerian team and its supporters.

The chairman of Egypt’s National Sports Council, Hassan Saqr, denied that Egyptian fans attacked or injured Algerian football players. Security officials told local media the attack was staged by Algerian fans.

In 1989, fans rioted after Egypt beat Algeria 1-0 to qualify for the World Cup. Neither team has qualified since.