Ghana overwhelmed Egypt 6-1 on Tuesday in the first leg of an Africa zone playoff to all but secure a third consecutive World Cup finals appearance.
The Black Stars took an early lead and were 3-1 in front by halftime, before another three goals left Egypt facing an almost impossible task next month in the second leg in Cairo.
Asamoah Gyan scored twice for the home team, while Majeed Waris, Sulley Muntari and Christian Atsu each netted one, while Wael Gomaa conceded an own-goal.
Mohamed Aboutrika was Egypt’s lone marksman, converting a spot-kick to pull the score back to 2-1 before Ghana took total control.
It was a remarkable scoreline that not even the most partisan Ghana supporters could have imagined before the kickoff.
The Black Stars started with inexperienced centerbacks Jerry Akaminko and Rashid Sumaila in place of injured John Boye and Jonathan Mensah.
Midfielders Mohammed Rabiu and Kevin-Prince Boateng were also sidelined by injuries and a suspension ruled out play-anywhere Harrison Afful.
Ghana’s lineup comprised players from nine countries, with Italy and South Africa providing two each, while eight of Egypt’s squad came from African champions Al Ahly.
Those chosen from Cairo’s Red Devils included a couple of golden oldies: centerback Gomaa, 38, and midfielder Aboutrika, 34, who are seeking first World Cup finals appearances.
Egypt resembled nerve-riddled amateurs in the early stages of the game at the nearly-full 50,000-capacity Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, Ghana’s second-biggest city.
Gyan scuffed a chance after just 11 seconds and they could have been two goals ahead before he put Ghana in front on five minutes.
The former Sunderland striker picked up a loose ball, drove into the box and fired a low shot across goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy into the far corner.
Ekramy was working overtime, blocking a Kwadwo Asamoah shot and changing direction to push away a Waris header as Ghana dominated.
It was no surprise when the home side doubled their advantage on 22 minutes after dazzling dribbling from Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien.
He took the ball past several opponents and when his charge was blocked by Ekramy, the ball struck Gomaa and rolled into the net.
Egypt, the only country to win all six Africa zone group games, were rattled and US coach Bob Bradley switched from a back four to three central defenders.
With five Pharaohs in midfield, the visitors gradually came into the game and unmarked Mohamed Naguib wasted a chance by heading over at the far post.
It was a warning for Ghana and Daniel Opare almost conceded an own-goal before Egypt halved the deficit four minutes from the break.
Sumaila fouled Mohamed Salah and Aboutrika calmly stroked the penalty into the corner as Fatawu Dauda dived the wrong way.
However, Ghana took just three minutes to regain a two-goal advantage with Waris nodding a Muntari free-kick across Ekramy and into the far corner.
Egypt needed to score first in the second half to get back into the game, but fell even further behind eight minutes after the restart.
An attempted bicycle-kick from Muntari hit the turf and as the ball rose, Gyan nodded past Ekramy for his fifth goal of the campaign.
The goalkeeper was forced to retire injured soon after and when replacement Ahmed El Shenawy pulled down Waris, Muntari converted the penalty before Atsu completed the rout.