Preview: Solid Egypt out to tame Morocco's vibrant attack

It's rather a straightforward task for Egypt: nullify Morocco's attacking threat to stand a good chance of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations semis.

Hatem Maher , Saturday 29 Jan 2022,
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Egypt
Egypt s players celebrate after the penalty shoot out for the African Cup of Nations 2022 round of 16 soccer match between Ivory Coast and Egypt at the Japoma Stadium in Douala, Cameroon, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022 (AP)

The North African rivals lock horns in a mouthwatering quarter-final clash at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Cameroonian capital Yaounde on Sunday, five years after meeting at the same stage in the Gabon edition.

Back then, Egypt snatched a 1-0 victory to lay Moroccan ghosts to rest, albeit after surviving a barrage of attacks from their slick opponents. The late smash-and-grab victory was Egypt's first over Morocco in 31 years.

Morocco are still loyal to their free-flowing football while Egypt, likewise, stuck to the conservative approach that was the hallmark of Hector Cuper's era a few years ago.

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz has made some adjustments though, pushing his midfield upfield and at times trying to apply high pressing.

This strategy was highly effective against Cote d'Ivoire in the round of 16 as Egypt contained their dangerous marksmen and launched some dangerous breakaways, although their lack of cutting edge prevented them from claiming what would have been a deserved win in 120 minutes.

Egypt prevailed 5-4 on penalties to continue their bid towards a record-extending eighth crown.

"Lads, an outstanding team performance, rewarded with a deserved win. I can't be more proud of you. Now another game ahead, with another challenge for us to grow up and be better and better," Queiroz said.

Slick Morocco

Morocco have proven the prettiest team to watch at the Nations Cup so far, with their silky football distinguishing them.

Although they fell behind to a stunning goal against Malawi in the round of 16, they roared back to claim a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory after launching a wave after wave of attacks.

Two players stood out, with winger Sofiane Boufal and full-back Achraf Hakimi causing Malawi all sorts of problems on both flanks and the latter scoring the winner with a delightful free-kick in the second half.

"He (Hakimi) is a key player. He can change the course of the game at any time. For me, he is one of the great talents and best players in the world in his position," Morocco coach Vahid Halilhodzic told Cafonline.com.

History heavily favours Morocco, with the Atlas Lions boasting an impressive record of 13 wins, 11 draws and only three loses against Egypt.

Egypt will miss in-form goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who picked up a hamstring injury in the win over Cote d'Ivoire. His understudy, Mohamed Abou-Gabal, came off the bench to play a vital role in the Pharaohs' win over Cote d'Ivoire by blocking a penalty in the shootout.

They will also likely have to do without influential defensive midfielder Hamdi Fathi, who was taken off with an injury against Cote d'Ivoire.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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Group A W D L P
Cameroon
2 1 0 7
Burkina Faso
1 1 1 4
Cape Verde
1 1 1 4
Ethiopia
0 1 2 1
Group B W D L P
Senegal
1 2 0 5
Guinea
1 1 1 4
Malawi
1 1 1 4
Zimbabwe
1 0 2 3
Group C W D L P
Morocco
2 1 0 7
Gabon
1 2 0 5
Comoros
1 0 2 3
Ghana
0 1 2 1
Group D W D L P
Nigeria
3 0 0 9
Egypt
2 0 1 6
Sudan
0 1 2 1
Guinea Bissau
0 1 2 1
Group E W D L P
Cote d Ivoire
2 1 0 7
Equatorial Guinea
2 0 1 6
Sierra Leone
0 2 1 2
Algeria
0 1 2 1
Group F W D L P
Mali
2 1 0 7
Gambia
2 1 0 7
Tunisia
1 0 2 3
Mauritania
0 0 3 0