Egypt qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the third time in its history on Sunday after defeating Congo 2-1 in Alexandria.
Liverpool striker Mohammed Salah scored his country’s two goals, giving Egypt the victory that allows it to play in the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
Egypt becomes the second Arab country after Saudi Arabia and the second African country after Nigeria to qualify to next year’s tournament that is hosted by Russia.
Egypt had previously played in the 1934 and 1990 World Cups, both of which were hosted by Italy.
With Sunday’s victory, Egypt managed to avoid the play-off round. They ended the group stage of the qualifications with 12 points from four victories. They only lost once. They ended their campaign four points ahead of the nearest competitor in group E that included Ghana, Uganda and Congo.
Egypt had taken the lead against Congo with a Salah goal in the 63rd minute. The crowd of some 75,000 fans then had to endure some tense moments after Congo equalized in the 87th minute, but a Salah penalty in the fourth minute of added time sealed Egypt’s qualification to euphoric celebrations across the country.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, telephoned later on Sunday Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to congratulate him on his country's achievement.
More Arab countries could join Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Russia next year if Tunisia and Morocco earn draws against Libya and the Ivory Coast respectively in next month’s African play-offs.
Syria will meanwhile face Australia on October 10 to determine whether it will reserve a place for itself in the Asian play-offs.
The draw for the group stages of the 2018 World Cup will take place in Moscow on December 1.