Egypt score superb 4-2 win in Zimbabwe in World Cup qualifying
Highly rated Mohamed Salah scores hat-trick in win in Harare
Pharaohs boast perfect record in second stage of African qualifying
Ivory Coast take a firm grip on Group C with 3-0 win in the Gambia
Rising star Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick as Egypt beat Zimbabwe 4-2 in Harare Sunday to all but book their place in the final stage of African qualifying for the 2014 World Cup Finals.
Salah has been impressing for both club and country, helping Basel to the semifinals of the Europa League this season and grabbing 15 goals in his last 21 games for Egypt.
The emphatic victory for the ‘Pharaohs’ has left them with a 100 per cent record from four games.
With Congo-Brazzaville and Tunisia drawing in Gabon and Sierra Leone respectively Saturday, Egypt were left as the only one of the 40 second-stage teams to have a perfect record.
Guinea thrashed Mozambique 6-1 later Sunday to keep alive their slim hopes of catching Egypt at the top of the Group G standings – but trail by five points.
Zimbabwe had pushed Egypt close in Cairo three months ago, but Salah put Bob Bradley’s men ahead for the second time just before halftime in the National Stadium.
Mohamed Abou Trika had given the visitors a fifth minute lead before Musona leveled midway through the half.
Salah scored his second and Egypt’s third with a superb effort on 76 minutes before Knowledge Billiat gave the home side brief hope.
Salah’s hat-trick goal soon afterwards settled the match and set them on their way to only their third appearance in a World Cup finals.
In other action Sunday, Togo’s 2-0 home win over Cameron revived their slim hopes in a tight Group I where only two points separate the four sides.
Algeria kept a firm group on Group H as a first half double from Islam Slimani set them on the way to a 3-1 win in Benin.
In Group C, Ivory Coast stretched their lead to four points with two rounds left with a 3-0 win in the Gambia as Lacina Traore, Wilfried Bony and reigning African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure were on target.
Tanzania’s hopes of overtaking ‘The Elephants’ were all but ended when they lost 2-1 in Morocco.
In Group B, Tunisia maintained a five-point lead over Sierra Leone by holding them 2-2 in Freetown.
There was also a 2-1 consolation win for Cape Verde Islands over Equatorial Guinea. The surprise 2013 Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinalists had suffered three straight losses in their bid for a place in Rio.
The winners of the 10 African qualifying groups go through to the third and final section where they are whittled down to five teams for Brazil 2014