BLOEMFONTEIN // Africa is proving here at the Confederations Cup that it is ready to host a World Cup for the first time, and Egypt, with a scintillating performance against Brazil, have now shown that African football is ready to stand up to scrutiny too, even if Kaka's last-minute penalty saw them lose 4-3 in a remarkable match. Kaka's 90th-minute spot-kick in Bloemfontein, after Ahmed al Muhamadi had handled a Lucio effort on the line, was a dramatic way to end a dramatic afternoon, especially as al Muhamadi also received a red card for his indiscretion.
But perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay to Egypt is that Kaka's brilliance was not the story of the match, even though he also opened the scoring with a trademark effort. In fact the post-match analysis will centre on the way Egypt were able to make Brazil's normally reliable defence look shaky and nervous. And it will also prompt debate on how the African champions looked very much at home on the same field as a side regarded as one of the favourites to win next year's World Cup.
The bare facts show that Brazil raced into a 3-1 lead, were pegged back to 3-3 and then stole victory, against the run of play, in the dying seconds. But those details fail to reveal the part played by Egypt's heroic players, in particular playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika. Brazil were ahead after only six minutes when Kaka, celebrating his move to Real Madrid, proved once again why he is worth 65million (Dh333.5m) as he dinked the ball over defender Hani Said's header, took advantage of Wael Gomaa's hesitation and then stroked a shot past Essam El Hadary.
But any thoughts the game would follow the same pattern as Spain's rout of New Zealand 24 hours earlier were dismissed when Egypt equalised within three minutes, Aboutrika crossing superbly for Mohamed Zidan to head home at the far post. Elano's free-kick was glanced home by Luis Fabiono for 2-1 after 12 minutes and the Manchester City man then provided a corner for Juan to rise about a static Hosni Abd Rabbou and make it 3-1 after 37 minutes. But when Abd Rabbou flashed a header narrowly over the crossbar on the stroke of half-time the signs were there that Egypt had the capability to recover - and so they did in a remarkable second half.
Shehata has fostered an excellent spirit in his side and they set about the South Americans with pace, guile and energy after the break and were rewarded with two quick-fire goals. The first saw Mohamed Shawky provide a crisp right-foot finish from the edge of the area and Zidan turned the impossible into reality by drilling home an excellent left-foot finish from Aboutrika's wonderful through-ball for the equaliser minutes later.
Much of the action after that was frenetic as Brazil strove to regain their lead but almost every time Egypt crossed the ball they looked dangerous. Sadly from their point of view, however, there was a sting in the tail as Brazil won a last-minute penalty when al Muhamadi, despite claims he used a shoulder, handled on the line and Kaka completed the formalities. The record books will show Brazil took three points but Egypt's indefatigable performance could have interesting repercussions for both teams.