Liverpool star Mohamed Salah held his nerve to score a 95th-minute penalty and send Egypt to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years with a game to spare.
Deep into injury time Salah stepped up when his country were awarded a crucial penalty, sparking dramatic celebrations on and off the pitch at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria.
The celebrations were not just contained to the Mediterranean port however. Fans honking car horns and waving Egypt’s red, white and black flags took the streets across the country. In Cairo, an army helicopter dropped hundreds of Egyptian flags on thousands of fans gathered at the city’s iconic Tahrir square
Egypt (4-2-3-1): El Hadary, Fathy, Abdul Shafy, Hegazi, Rabia, Elneny, Gomaa (Trezeguet 55), Hamed, Salah, Koka (Gamal 77), Sobhi (El Mohamady 87)
Unused subs: Samir, Zakaria, Kahraba, Ashour, Morsy, Ekramy, Al Shenawy, Gaber, Gabr.
Goals: Salah 63, 90+5
Congo (4-2-3-1): Mouko, Badila, Etou, Itoua, Mayembo, N’Dinga, Oniangue, Bahamboula (Ndockyt 84), Bifouma, Saint-Louis (Gandze 90+2), Delarge (Moutou 71).
Unused subs: Kifoueti, Kibamba, Bissiki, Dore, Illoy-Ayyet, Pambou, Avounou, Mafoumbi, Baudry.
Bookings: Badila, Etou
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi congratulated the Egyptian people after the match as tireless fans draped in flags turned the streets into an impromptu parade of red, white and black.
Congo almost ruined the party when Arnold Bouka volleyed home to peg back the hosts after Salah’s second-half opener. Instead, the result sees Egypt return to the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Hector Cuper’s Pharaohs went into their penultimate Group E game knowing a win would secure their World Cup progress after Uganda drew with Ghana the night before in Kampala.
A scoreless first half raised the nerves in Alexandria but Salah’s first of the night put one Egyptian foot in Russia. Just after the hour mark, Salah latched on to a pass from Arsenal’s Mohamed El Nenny before poking home from close range.
Egypt have won four Africa Cup of Nations titles since 1990 – in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010 – but fallen consistently short in World Cup qualification.
Their latest attempt to do so had seen Argentine coach Cuper forced to take medication for high blood pressure.
When Bouka thumped home an equaliser for the unfancied and winless Congo late on it became clear why Cuper had turned to medication.
Egypt got a reprieve in added time when substitute Mahmoud Hassan was brought and Salah restored the lead from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way to clinch a place in Russia next year.