Preview: Salah and Co. out to taste first glory with Egypt

Mohamed Salah and his teammates will be eager to taste glory with Egypt for the first time when the team meet Senegal in the African Cup of Nations final in Cameroonian capital Yaounde on Sunday.

Hatem Maher , Sunday 6 Feb 2022,
Egypt s players celebrate after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 semi-final football match between Cameroon and Egypt at Stade d Olembe in Yaounde on February 3, 2022 (AFP)

None of the current crop was present when Egypt won the last of their record seven Nations Cup crowns in 2010. Some of them, including Salah, came close in 2017 but lost 2-1 to Cameroon after throwing away their lead.

Egypt will be hoping to cap a superb run this year with an eighth title, having brushed aside several of the continent's heavyweights en route to a 10th appearance in the final.

They defeated Cote d'Ivoire on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the round of 16, came from behind to earn a 2-1 win over Morocco after extra time in the quarters before overcoming hosts Cameroon in another shootout following a goalless draw in the semis.

The solid defensive foundations laid by canny Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz give Egypt every reason to believe that they can claim the scalp of another top gun.

However, Senegal are expected to provide a stiff test, with Sadio Mane coming up against Liverpool teammate Salah in another intriguing duel.

Both men had played key roles in propelling their respective sides to the final, with Mane scoring three goals and providing two assists and Salah netting twice and creating a goal.

"Facing Senegal and Mane would be difficult. After the game against Morocco, I saw Mane and both of us hoped we would meet in the final. Now, each one of us is ready to help his side to victory," Salah told the pre-match news conference.

Senegal are also looking to make up for a bitter final loss to Algeria in the 2019 edition in Egypt as they yearn for a maiden Nations Cup triumph.

Queiroz's absence

Queiroz, who is also seeking to win his first title since guiding Real Madrid to a Spanish Super Cup triumph in 2003, will sit out the final after being sent off against Cameroon for dissent.

The hothead Portuguese lambasted officials of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over what he perceived as the ill-treatment Egypt had received, ranting at "the timing of the matches to the quality of the stadiums".

His assistant, South African Roger de Sa, is also banned after CAF hit him with a four-match suspension after being found guilty of "using an obscene gesture" following a clash with Moroccan Football Federation President Faouzi Lekja.

"I am ready to pay the price of this outrageous and unfair punishment of missing the final," Queiroz said on Twitter.

"I feel proud and honoured for that because I pay this price in my fight to protect you and our team."

Queiroz will have some work to do before he watches his team play from the stands.

Omar Kamal, who stepped in as an emergency right-back after Akram Tawfik was injured during the opening loss to Nigeria, is out due to automatic suspension, leaving Egypt without a natural full-back.

Zamalek's natural midfielder Emam Ashour might play that role, having been introduced as a right-back for a few minutes in the semi-final against Cameroon.

Egypt and Senegal will also meet in a crucial two-legged World Cup qualifying playoff next month for a place in the Qatar finals.

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

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