'Panenka' boy Ramadan Sobhi eyes final glory for Egypt

Karim Farouk , Thursday 2 Feb 2017,
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Sobhi
frican Cup of Nations - Semi Finals - Burkina Faso v Egypt- Stade de l'Amitie - Libreville, Gabon - 1/2/17 Burkina Faso's Bertrand Traore in action with Egypt's Ramadan Sobhi Reuters

Winger Ramadan Sobhi said an African Nations Cup title is finally within Egypt's reach after a 4-3 shootout victory over Burkina Faso in the semi-final on Wednesday. 

"We want to win the title to bring joy for the 90 million people who await it now at home," the 20-year-old told beIN Sports after the match. 

"Burkina Faso is a very good team and I want to congratulate them for their performance. We face tough circumstances with the injuries and fatigue, especially that we only had two days to recover and travel from another city. But we had a goal and we were focused on it."

Egypt grabbed the lead on 65 minutes, thanks to a superb Mohamed Salah curler, but Aristide Bance equalised eight minutes later. 

In the shootout, Abdallah El-Said missed Egypt's first effort but veteran keeper Essam El-Hadary came to their rescue with two superb one-handed saves to lift the Pharaohs to their first final since winning the last of their record seven titles in 2010.

Sobhi, who replaced Mahmoud Trezeguet with five minutes remaining in the regulation time, converted his spot kick with a dinked shot similar to Antonin Panenka's for Czechoslovakia against West Germany in the 1976 Euro final. 

"This is a boy who has character and a strong personality. To try a Panenka in the semi-final of the Nations Cup while his team is behind, it takes a huge confidence, nerves and maturity and he is just 20," said former Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul while analysing the game for beIN Sports. 

"Ramadan has all what it takes to become a great player." 

Sobhi also once again denied any rift with coach Hector Cuper after reacting angrily to being substituted in the 1-0 group-stage win over Uganda. He was not used in games against Ghana and Morocco. 

"It was just a misunderstanding and I was upset because the game was tense and I wanted to help, but I respect all of the coach's decisions," Sobhi added.

"Now we will turn our attention towards the final. We have been hit by injuries but the coach had all the players ready and I think we all did what we were asked to do." 

Egypt's Argentinean coach Hector Cuper had to do without some of his key players during the course of the tournament as keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi, left back Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, midfielder Mohamed Elneny and striker Marwan Mohsen were all injured. 

Striker Ahmed "Kouka" Hassan also missed the semi-final clash due to injury and it's not yet clear if he will be fit for Sunday's final. Winger Mahmoud Kahraba will not be available due to automatic suspension after collecting two yellow cards in the knockout rounds. 

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Group A W D L P
Egypt
3 0 0 9
Uganda
1 1 1 4
DR Congo
1 0 2 3
Zimbabwe
0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
Madagascar
2 1 0 7
Nigeria
2 0 1 6
Guinea
1 1 1 4
Burundi
0 0 3 0
Group C W D L P
Algeria
3 0 0 9
Senegal
2 0 1 6
Kenya
1 0 2 3
Tanzania
0 0 3 0
Group D W D L P
Morocco
3 0 0 9
Cote d'Ivoire
2 0 1 6
South Africa
1 0 2 3
Namibia
0 0 3 0
Group E W D L P
Mali
2 1 0 7
Tunisia
0 3 0 3
Angola
0 2 1 2
Mauritania
0 2 1 2
Group F W D L P
Ghana
1 2 0 5
Cameroon
1 2 0 5
Benin
0 3 0 3
Guinea Bissau
0 1 2 1