No team has won the Africa Cup of Nations more times than Cameroon and Egypt. They have lifted the Holy Grail of African Football 12 times between themselves. Seven for the Pharaohs and five for the Indomitable Lions.
Egypt had a sluggish group stage campaign. They struggled to get into their rhythm and score goals. They somehow rose to the expectations to oust Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco to reach the semifinals. The Pharaohs were looking to their star captain Mohamed Salah to make things happen. The Liverpool forward has two goals and an assist at AFCON 2021 so far.
Cameroon managed four wins and a draw on the road to the semifinal. The Indomitable Lions were riding on confidence as the hosts and one of the star nations. They were dreaming of a sixth AFCON trophy and this one on home soil would be special. Cameroon rely on the lethal attacking duo of Vincent Abubakar and Karl Toko Ekambi. They have combined for 11 goals so far. Aboubakar has six, Ekambi has five.
Cameroon laid down the marker in the early stages. They had a penalty shout waved away by the referee. That didn’t bring down their spirits. They continued the pressure and were almost rewarded with the opener. Michael Ngadeu met a corner but steered his header onto the crossbar. Vincent Aboubakar was first to the rebound but his shot was blocked. Cameroon kept the pressure on with another corner. Ngaedu got the rebound but spurned his chance.
Just beyond the half-hour mark, the lions were at it again. Ngaedu received a slide-rule pass and had just the keeper to beat. His effort lacked power and Gabaski made an easy save. The Egyptians didn’t trouble Andre Onana. They barely had a sniff and failed to register a shot on target at halftime.
Egypt came out with more purpose than in the first half. Talisman Mohammed Salah was gifted an excellent chance from a preposterous backpass but couldn’t find a finish. Future Inter Milan goalkeeper Onana was quick off his line to deny him.
Cameroon had been the better team so far. They did everything right but couldn’t find the opening goal. In the 70th minute, a rebound fell for Karl Toko Ekambi who had a go from long range. His vicious strike hit the left post causing more frustration amongst the fans.
It was feisty at the dying embers of the 90. Frustrations from the Egyptian bench led to Carlos Queiroz getting sent off. The Egyptian head coach had previously been booked for dissent.
Both teams couldn’t find a way past the goalkeepers and the game etched towards extra time.
Tired legs and frustrated minds. Something had to give or it would go to penalties. Cameroon pressed had but Egypt gave away nothing. The Pharaohs looked to catch them on the break. Salah fashioned a half chance but dragged his shot wide.
Ramadan Sobhi showed wonderful footwork to get past his man on the right. His cross only needed a touch to turn to gold but no one could make contact. After two hours of football, it came down to penalties.
Nerves of steel. It didn’t matter who played better. It went from a game of physical strength to mental strength. Cameroon could only convert one out of four penalties. Thanks to Gabaski’s heroics, Egypt advanced to the final converting all three.
Egypt stayed solid and resilient to edge past Cameroon. They have set up a blockbuster finale vs Senegal that is sure to capture the attention of Africa and the world. Senegal are the favorites, but that only means so much in a final. It all comes down to who wants it more. Sadio Mane v Mohammed Salah. Senegal v Egypt at the AFCON 2021 Final. Let’s goooooooooooo.