Forgotten winger Mahmoud Shikabala netted a superb goal on his return to Egypt’s fold after a three-year absence as the already-qualified side drew 1-1 away to Ghana in their final World Cup qualifier on Sunday.
The Zamalek-bound man, who is on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Raed, made his first appearance since featuring in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Tunisia in September 2014, scoring his first competitive goal with Egypt following a neat move he started as they ended their campaign on top of Group E with 13 points.
Edwin Gyasi struck for a much-changed Ghana side in the 64th minute to cancel out Shikabala’s opener three minutes earlier.
Egypt, who secured their ticket to next year’s Russia finals when they beat Congo 2-1 in a dramatic game in Alexandria last month, tasted one defeat in six group-stage matches, winning four matches and drawing once.
Uganda finished second in the group with nine points, with Ghana third on seven and Congo at the bottom with two.
Both sides made wholesale changes to their starting line-ups as they sought to test some new faces after things were settled in the group.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper introduced eight unfamiliar faces, with Etoile du Sahel striker Marei making his first appearance and Shikabala playing his first international match in three years.
Karim Hafez, who plays for RC Lens in the French Ligue2, replaced the injured Mohamed Abdel-Shafi as a left-back and Wigan Athletic’s central midfielder Sam Morsy played instead of Zamalek’s Tarek Hamed.
Egypt and Ghana made unscripted substitutions in the first half after central defender Rami Rabia and Ghana’s Nana Opoku were injured. They made way for Saad Samir and Patrick Twumasi respectively.