Egypt fulfilled their ultimate target of reaching the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but a prestigious prize remains up for grabs as the young Pharaohs eye their first continental crown since Hassan Shehata’s triumph in 2003.
They take on Cameroon on Thursday for a place in the African Youth Championship final, with all four semi-finalists already ensured a berth in the World Cup in Colombia later this year.
The World Cup draw will also take place on Thursday. Egypt, who hosted the 2009 tournament but bowed out after losing to Costa Rica in the first knockout stage, will be among the third seeds in the draw.
Coach Shehata, one of the country’s all-time football greats, masterminded Egypt’s U-20 last continental victory eight years ago in Burkina Faso before going on to steer the senior team to unprecedented success during a glorious reign.
Now Egypt has a chance to replicate the 2003 triumph, but they must first overcome a tough opponent in Cameroon to reach the final. Mali and Nigeria meet in the other semi final.
Cameroon qualified for the African Championship semis after finishing on top of Group B with seven points from three games while Egypt went through as Group A runners-up with six points.
“I think Cameroon and Egypt are very good teams. Unfortunately, they are meeting in the semi finals,” Egypt coach Diaa El-Sayed said in an interview with Cafonline.com.
“Cameroon’s entire team is good and their coach is also a good technician. I think everything will be settled on the field and the best will win. I wish to be the best on the field of play.”
Jean Komguep Efala, Cameroon’s skipper, said there will be no room for mistakes when his side locks horns with Egypt.
“We have been preparing well and our confidence has been the same since the start of the competition,” he stated.
“It will be a game just like the three others; the only difference is that any mistake will be difficult to repair.”
Egypt will be missing Ahly’s left-back Rami Rabie, who was automatically ruled out of the game after accumulating two yellow cards.
Nigeria are the record winners of the African Youth Championship with five titles. Egypt won three, while Cameroon won it once in1995.