Mohamed Salah © Backpage Pix
Egypt and Cameroon, two of the continent’s football powerhouses, will face off in the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville, Gabon, on Sunday night. The match will be held at Stade de l’Amitie, kick-off at 9pm CAT.
Cameroon have been one of the surprise packages of the 2017 edition, shrugging off the absence of several major stars to power past some of the tournament’s strongest teams in their path to the final.
The Indomitable Lions will see the match against Egypt as a chance for revenge: they were beaten 1-0 by the Pharaohs in the final of the 2008 Afcon in Ghana and could claim a fifth continental crown (and a first since 2002) on Sunday night.
"Egypt are a big team, they have won seven titles and showed a very good performance so far. But we are determined to win to avenge our defeat in the 2008 final," explained defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui.
"A lot of people didn't believe in us. We didn't think that we can go so far in the competition but now we want to win the title.”
Egypt, meanwhile, have re-established themselves as a giant of African football in their path to the final, topping their group ahead of Ghana, beating North African rivals Morocco for the first time in over three decades in the quarterfinal, and then overcoming a powerful Burkina Faso on penalties in the semi.
The Pharaohs haven’t necessarily dominated their matches, but a resilient defence (just one goal conceded in Gabon), breathtaking pace on the counter attack and a canny nous at set pieces has helped them look the archetypal ‘tournament’ team at this Afcon.
The only question now is whether Hector Cuper can break his finals jinx: the Argentina notably lost three major European finals at the helm of Real Mallorca and Valencia. "Despite my bad luck in the finals, I am optimistic this time with Egypt," Cuper has explained.
The Egypt coach may well be able to welcome back Mohamed Elneny from injury, but will definitely be without Mohamed Abdel Shafy (injury) and the mercurial Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ (suspension). Ahmed El Shenawy, Marwan Mousa and Ahmed ‘Koka’ are also doubtful.
In head-to-head stats, Egypt and Cameroon have clashed in 24 official matches according to Fifa statistics. The North Africans have claimed 12 wins compared to five for their opponents, while seven matches have been drawn.
The teams’ most recent meeting took place in Omdurman, Sudan, in May 2012. The Pharaohs claimed a 2-1 victory over the Indomitable Lions.
EGYPT - Mohamed Salah
Having scored the winning goal against Ghana in the group stage and again in the semifinal against Burkina Faso, Mohamed Salah has been an influential figure in attack despite not showing his best form. Perhaps the Italy-based winger will produce his best performance in the final.
CAMEROON - Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui
With a fine goal in the semifinal against Ghana and a string of strong showings in defence to help Cameroon concede just twice in the tournament (including three straight clean sheets), Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui has already enjoyed a great Afcon.
HEAD-TO-HEAD - EGYPT V CAMEROON
Egypt FIFA ranking: 35
Cameroon FIFA ranking: 62
Matches played: 24
Egypt wins: 12
Cameroon wins: 5
Egypt goals scored: 30
Cameroon goals scored: 17
Last match: 20 May 2012 in Omdurman - Egypt 2-1 Cameroon