Egypt are out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup after a shock 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in the last 16. Jose Mena's first half header and Marcos Urena's late winner sealed a quarter-final place for the jubilant Ticos, who benefited from a limp and nervous performance from the hosts in front of an expectant Cairo International Stadium.
There was little in the early exchanges to hint at any danger for the Young Pharaohs, with some dreadful Costa Rican defending presenting Mohamed Talaat with a chance as early as the fifth minute. The Egypt No9 bustled his way through but sliced wide as he and team-mate Ahmed Shoukri got in each other's way.
Still the chances came, however. Slack marking has been a recurring problem for Los Ticos at this tournament and it nearly cost them dearly on 19 minutes, when Talaat was permitted a free header that would have ended up in the bottom corner had it not been for an excellent save from Esteban Alvarado. Yet, just two minutes later, and completely against the run of play, Costa Rica stormed into the lead. David Guzman delivered an inviting free-kick from the right, and when the ball was flicked on, captain Jose Mena stole in at the back post to send a superb diving header crashing into the roof of the net.
With the capacity crowd stunned into silence, Egypt attempted a swift salvage mission but were all too often thwarted by their own nervousness. Captain Ahmed Shoukri at least attempted to lead by example, showing great skill to wrong foot his marker before curling a well-struck left-foot shot just over with 16 minutes of the first half remaining. Talaat also found himself denied by Alvarado once again as the interval approached, although the majority of Egypt's attacks floundered due to a lack of composure in the final third.
This edginess continued to afflict the hosts at the start of the second half, and they were fortunate not to find themselves two down four minutes after the restart, when Diego Madrigal slipped a shot wide of the far post after racing clear of the Young Pharaohs' defence. Costa Rica continued to threaten on the break, and with Egypt impotent at the other end, the home fans were becoming increasingly frustrated. And the situation nearly went from bad to worse with 15 minutes remaining, when Diego Estrada blazed over from inside the box after Hosam Hassan had miskicked wildly.
Egypt had created nothing whatsoever at this stage of the second half, but they belatedly provided their fans with some excitement when substitute Mostafa Galal headed inches wide after rising highest to meet an Afroto corner. Afroto himself tried his luck with a late free-kick that Alvarado acrobatically clawed away, but all doubt was removed with just two minutes remaining when Estrada played in Marcos Urena to smash a brilliant winner high into the far corner of the net.
Costa Rica can now look forward to a quarter-final against the winner of Venezuela's last 16 tie with UAE, while Egypt are left to ponder where it all went wrong.