Preview: Chance for revenge as Egypt meet Cameroon in AFCON semis

Egypt will have a chance for revenge when they meet hosts Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations semi-final on Thursday, five years after the Pharaohs bitterly lost the final to the Indomitable Lions.

Ahram Online , Wednesday 2 Feb 2022,
Egypt s midfielder Mahmoud Trezeguet Hassan (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team s second goal during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 quarter-final football match between Egypt and Morocco at Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on January 30, 2022 (AFP)

In 2017, Egypt looked close to winning a record-extending eighth crown after taking a first-half lead against Cameroon, thanks to a superb strike from Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny.

But two second-half goals from Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar turned the match on its head and condemned Egypt to a cruel defeat, which was hard to swallow for a team that had craved the title so much.

Prior to the 2017 edition, Egypt had failed to qualify for the Nations Cup for three straight times -- a disastrous outcome for a team that had won an unprecedented hat-trick of titles from 2006-10.

However, recent history favours Egypt, who won three out of their last four encounters with Cameroon in the Nations Cup.

Disciplined Egypt

Egypt's coach Carlos Queiroz said more than once before the Nations Cup that his priority was lifting them to the World Cup finals in Qatar, comments which angered many fans who felt a team with such pedigree should challenge for all honours.

After a poor opening that saw Egypt largely outplayed in a 1-0 loss to Nigeria, the team improved as the tournament wore on, with Queiroz moulding a disciplined side that is tight at the back and dangerous going forward.

Egypt tamed Cote d'Ivoire in a shootout win in the round of 16 following a 0-0 draw before producing an even better display in the quarters against Morocco, coming from behind to earn a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory after extra time.

Although five-time winners Cameroon have faced less fancied opponents, they are still banking on home support and their firepower to oust Egypt, with strike duo Vincent Aboubakar and Lyon's Karl Toko Ekambi firing on all cylinders.

Aboubakar, one of the stars of Cameroon's triumph in 2017, is even more impressive this year as he tops the tournament's scoring chart with six goals, one ahead of Ekambi, who scored the two goals that gave his side a 2-0 quarter-final win over Gambia.

But Egypt boast a prolific forward of their own in Mohamed Salah, who inspired their comeback win over Morocco by scoring a second-half goal and providing an extra-time assist.

Salah has two goals to his name so far in the tournament, having also scored the winner in a 1-0 group-stage victory over Guinea-Bissau.

"Words like fear have been erased from our football dictionary. In our football dictionary, there is the word respect," Queiroz told the pre-match news conference.

"We have great respect for the Cameroon national team and its players, because they perform well and score goals, but we are ready, and after five matches I think everything is open to all teams."

Stand-in keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal, who is deputising for Mohamed El-Shennawi after the Ahly keeper was ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury, is likely to be fit for the game.

The Zamalek guardian was doubtful after sustaining a groin muscle injury against Morocco. He was substituted in the first half of extra time, making way for third-choice keeper Mohamed Sobhi.

Egypt also welcome back defensive midfielder Hamdi Fathi after he missed the win over Morocco with an injury.

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

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