Sadio Mane and Senegal will face off against Mohamed Salah and Egypt in the final of the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Cameroon after Egypt saw of the host nation in a penalty shootout.
Egypt beat Cameroon 3-1 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes at the Olembe stadium, Yaounde that saw a lot of drama. Egypt shotstopper Mohamed Abou Gabal was the hero of the shootout, saving two penalties from Cameroon while they scuffed the last one.
24-year-old defender Harold Moukoudi who came on in the second half played a weak penalty that was very close to Abou Gabal, who stopped it without much effort. Abou Gabal saved a second in a row as James Lea-Siliki tried to blast one into the top of the net, but the Egyptian goalie was alert and followed the ball.
Meanwhile, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana could not do anything about Egypt’s three penalties, which were cooly dispatched to send the Pharaohs to the finals to face the Teranga Lions of Senegal.
Salah did not get a chance to take a penalty as his teammates helped to secure the showdown which African and Liverpool fans have looked forward to since the beginning of the tournament.
Meanwhile, hosts Cameroon will have to settle for a chance at third place against Burkina Faso, who were emphatically beaten 3-1 by Senegal on Wednesday for their chance to take something away from the tournament.
The match between the Pharaohs – record seven time winners of the tournament – and the Indomitable Lions – five time winners, second behind Egypt – was a tense one. The pre-match environment was heated up by comments from both sides, most notably that of Cameroon captain and the tournament’s top scorer, Vincent Aboubakar.
The Cameroon forward boldly claimed that Egypt’s talisman Salah was an unimpressive player who just scored a lot of goals and offered nothing more. This was after Cameroon legend and current Cameroon Football Association (FECAFOOT) president Samuel Eto’o charged his compatriots with a war cry to take to the pitch like warriors.
Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz slammed Eto’o for his comments, and was on edge for most of the game, which saw him get a red card for his troubles.
Both teams passed up many chances to seal the victory for their side, leading to the penalty shootout that saw Abou Gabal come up big for the Pharaohs.
Egypt finally got their pound of flesh from Cameroon in the rematch of the 2017 AfCON final. Aboubakar, who was then a squad player, came on to score the winning goal in that final. Now captain of the national team, he will rue his inability to lead the Indomitable Lions to the final once more.
Egypt have called on the organising committee of the AFCON to move the final by one day to allow their side rest and prepare well enough for a tough final against Senegal.
The Teranga Lions played on Wednesday and finished their game in regulation time. Meanwhile, Egypt ended two of their knockout games in penalties and one in extra time and as a result, have accumulated fatigue.
Earlier on Wednesday, before the Cameroon-Egypt game, CAF moved the third place playoff by a day without exclusively giving any reasons for the move. In light of this, Egypt also asked for a day extra to rest and prepare for their final.
“I want to state to all CAF authorities that Senegal have one extra day to train and therefore maybe we should play the final on Monday,” Egypt’s assistant coach Diaa al-Sayed, who was speaking in the place of red-carded manager Carlos Queiroz, said.
It remains to be seen what Egypt will do as fans prepare for a Salah vs Mane showdown slated for February 6th, 2021.