2 World Best Players: Salah and Mane Face Each Other in the AFCON final. Egypt advanced to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations after defeating hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes in Yaounde on Thursday.
Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal was the hero in the shootout at the Olembe Stadium, save both Harold Moukoudi and James Lea-Siliki before Clinton Njie blazed wide with Cameroon’s final chance to keep their dream alive.
Salah, who is typically Egypt’s sixth penalty taker, was not required as Egypt advanced to the final against Senegal at the Olembe Stadium on Sunday.
“We are really proud of our achievement tonight,” Egypt assistant coach Diaa al-Sayed stated after coach Carlos Queiroz was kicked out during the match.
He did, however, make a bold request that the final be changed. “I’d like to inform all CAF officials that Senegal has an extra day of training and that we should possibly play the final on Monday.”
Egypt needed penalties to beat Ivory Coast in the last 16 and an extra half-hour to beat Morocco in the quarter-finals, therefore this was their third extra time match in as many knockout matches.
A day ago, Senegal defeated Burkina Faso 3-1 in normal time.
Cameroon’s chances of winning the AFCON on home soil have been dashed, but they still have to get through a third-place playoff against Burkina Faso this weekend.
“We are disappointed, as are 27 million Cameroonians, but football is football,” Toni Conceicao stated.
Prior to Cameroon’s last-16 win over the Comoros, only ten days had gone since the disaster at the stadium, in which eight people were killed and 38 were injured.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) had briefly closed the site for an inquiry into the events, robbing it of a quarter-final before allowing it to return.
Even with Covid limitations restricting crowds to 80% of capacity, many fans were evidently put off going to Olembe so soon after the tragedy, with only 24,371 in the 60,000-seat facility — many more could have come even with Covid restrictions limiting crowds to 80% of capacity.
The lack of support was a disgrace in a football-crazed country where Cameroon and Egypt are the two most successful teams in Cup of Nations history, with the Indomitable Lions’ five trophies being surpassed only by the Pharaohs.
The Egyptians were seeking vengeance for their 2-1 loss to the Indomitable Lions in the 2017 final, when Vincent Aboubakar came off the substitute to score the game-winning goal.
Aboubakar, who was an impact substitute at the time, is now Cameroon’s captain and the tournament’s top scorer with six goals.
He was so sure of himself before this game that he discounted Salah’s threat in a radio interview, and the Egyptian captain was a minor presence on the right wing, too often a solitary figure.
He did, however, miss a golden opportunity to open the scoring early in the second half when Martin Hongla sent him free with a terribly short back-pass. Andre Onana of Cameroon came out to make the save.
Although the hosts had dominated the first half and almost went ahead in the 18th minute when Michael Ngadeu leapt to head a corner off the crossbar, Aboubakar struggled to make an effect.
In the second half, Samuel Oum Gouet watched a long-range pile-driver clip the left upright.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians took advantage of every opportunity to waste time and annoy their opponents.
They usually recovered and finished the game with 11 players, but coach Queiroz, who was already missing one of his assistants due to a suspension, was issued a red card at the conclusion of normal time for losing his cool on the touchline.
Extra time passed with penalties always appearing to be a foregone conclusion, and Aboubakar was Cameroon’s only successful taker as they exited.
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