Egypt's substitute keeper revels in hero status after win over Cote d'Ivoire

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 26 Jan 2022

For once, it seemed as though Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz would not call up keeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal for his African Cup of Nations squad.

Egypt s goalkeeper Mohamed Abogabal (L) and Ivory Coast s goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare (R) react during a penalty shoot-out during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Ivory Coast and Egypt at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 26, 2022. APF

Some stuttering displays with Zamalek ahead of the tournament prompted the Cairo club's coach Patrice Carteron to demote him to the bench, but Queiroz eventually kept faith with him as his number two choice.

He was up to the task when needed, having replaced the ever-reliable Mohamed El-Shennawi just before the end of regulation time during Egypt's round of 16 clash against Cote d'Ivoire after the Ahly goalie had pulled a hamstring.

Abou-Gabal produced a superb reflex save to smother a curler from Ibrahim Sangare in the first half of extra time before proving Egypt's hero in a nervy shootout as the match ended goalless.

He pulled off a one-handed save to push Eric Bailly's spot-kick onto the bar and out to safety as Egypt secured a 5-4 shootout win to set up a quarter-final clash against Morocco.

"I'm used to such situations with El-Shennawi. It happened before against Libya," he quipped during a pitch-side interview with beIN Sport, referring to Egypt's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win in October when he replaced El-Shennawi in the first half.

"With the help of God, I was able to deal with the threats that came my way. I believe any of the Egypt goalkeepers would have produced the same display had they came on (following El-Shennawi's injury)."

Although Abou-Gabal struck a humble tone, he looked ecstatic at the final whistle, carrying Mohamed Salah on his shoulders after the Liverpool talisman converted Egypt's decisive fifth penalty.

Abou-Gabal now has another tough task against Morocco, with El-Shennawi unlikely to recover in time for Sunday's clash in Yaounde.

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