Tokyo, Japan, December 2, 2007 — African champions Egypt downed Asian champions Australia in four sets in their final game of the men’s World Cup on Sunday.
Man of the match Abdalla Ahmed recovered from a head injury in the early stages to inspire Egypt to a 25-14, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory at Komazawa Gymnasium in Tokyo. It was Egypt’s third victory of the tournament, while Australia dropped to 4-7.
Paul Carroll ended the tournament on 200 points, likely finishing behind just Hector Soto in the race for most points scored by a player, depending on any unlikely scoring feat in the Japan-Brazil match at Site A.
Ahmed was in fine fettle for Egypt from the start of proceedings and he smacked down a big spike to make it 8-3 at the first technical timeout, before smashing in an ace to make it 10-5.
Australia were caught cold by the Egyptians’ aggressive start to the game and despite coach Russell Borgeaud making a number of early substitutions Egypt continued to run away with it and led 16-9 at the second TTO.
The Aussies’ tendency to spike long on occasion meant Egypt were soon 20-11 ahead and they increased that lead with an ace from Hossam Shaarawy.
Egypt soon closed out the set. Ahmed aced for 23-15 and then did exactly the same to gain set point. And after some brilliant recovery play, Egypt won the set when Nathan Roberts spiked into the net.
Yet another ace from Ahmed got Egypt off to a good start in the second set but then disaster struck as he was hit in the head by a teammate when hitting a spiked winner and the North Africans’ star man up to that point had to be escorted off the court in agony, an ice pack held to his head.
Egypt still held the lead by two at the first TTO but a brilliant recovery by Roberts ended with Luke Campbell spiking a big winner and the Aussies quickly leveled at 8-8.
Luckily for Egypt, Ahmed then returned to the fray and another boost was that Elnaeim Ahmed Abd (Salah) started to find his range with spikes. Egypt took a 12-10 lead on a Salah special, at which point Australia called a timeout.
Salah scored a fluky ace — the ball dancing on the top of the net before dropping Aussie side — and then Ahmed blocked a beauty to make it 15-11.
Australia then stormed back to only trail by one, Campbell and David Ferguson working well at the net, but Egypt made it to the second TTO leading by two.
The Aussies pulled level at 17-17 when Carroll spiked well on the right and then Carroll blocked brilliantly to put his team ahead.
Ace-machine Ahmed served up another to put Egypt 19-18 ahead and stop the Aussie comeback in its tracks. Borgeaud called a timeout to fix things and it was tight as the match leveled out at 20-20.
Igor Yudin then put the Aussies in front before serving long to equalize the score again. Salah’s long serve then gave the Aussies the advantage at 23-22 before Ahmed tipped over to level things.
The next point was a huge one and it went to Australia, with Yudin storming through the middle to spike for set point and the Aussies claimed the bracket with a rare wayward spike from Ahmed.
Egypt led by three at the first technical timeout of the third set, with captain Hamdy Awad squeezing in a spike on the left for 8-5.
Mohamed Badawy crashed in a big spike on the left for 12-10 Egypt, and Badawy spiked again to keep that gap at the second TTO.
Ahmed extended the lead to three at 18-15 when he savagely spiked a loose ball and Salah’s sneaky ace — the ball dropped like a stone — made it 19-15.
The gap was too big for Australia. Mohamed Elnafrawy spiked for 22-19 and Salah produced a big spike on the right for set point. And it was Salah once again who strode up to smash home a clean winner to clinch the set.
Australia needed to rally to save the match and they raced into a four-point lead in the fourth set to lead 8-4 at the TTO. The Egyptians fought back, though, and the lead was cut to two at 14-12.
Campbell’s spike kept Australia’s two-point lead at the second TTO, but Egypt kept coming back at them and drew level at 18-18 when Elnafrawy blocked.
The same player blocked again to put the North Africans ahead and now Egypt had control. Benjamin Hardy served into the net to give Egypt the lead again at 22-21 and then Mohamed Gabal served a brilliant clean ace to put his team two ahead.
The end was in sight. Salah smashed in a spike for match point and he crashed home a brilliant ace to secure victory.