Our football writer previews the first semi-final of AFCON 2017.
And then there were four! The semi-finals are upon us with dark horses Burkina Faso taking on joint-tournament favourites Egypt in the opening tie and then it’s a clash of the Titans as Cameroon and Ghana go toe-to-toe.
Surprise semi-finalists Burkina Faso will look to upset the applecart once more, however, in their way stand an Egyptian side looking as solid as can be. This one will go down to the wire, but just which team will come out on top? Let's take a look...
Africa Cup of Nations, Semi-Final | Wed. 1 February | Stade d'Angondje | 21:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Burkina Faso 3/1 | Draw 39/20 | Egypt 11/10
Burkina Faso have come a long way – unexpectedly I might add. The Stallions advanced from group A, top of the table with a victory and two draws from three matches. Gabon and Cameroon were favourites to advance but Burkina Faso found a way through – doing it in style as well.
Their quarter-final with Tunisia had most football fanatics doubt them (including myself), but the Stallions proved their worth, grinding out a 2-0 victory. Two late goals courtesy of Aristide Bance and Nakoulma Prejuce saw Burkina Faso claw their way into the last four.
Burkina Faso will again be the underdogs to come out on top against Egypt, but that has worked in their favour throughout the tournament. It’s truly been a remarkable team effort from the stallions with each and every player pulling their weight, showing determination and sheer hard work.
Burkina Faso’s best ever finish at a Nations Cup was the 2013 edition where they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Nigeria in the final. This time around they will be looking to go all the way. That’s easier said than done, especially against a star-studded Egyptian side.
Egypt’s run into the semi-finals has been built around their organised defensive performances. They kick-started the campaign with a goalless draw against Mali, before playing to back-to-back 1-0 victories over Uganda and Ghana to top group C and earn a spot in the quarter-finals.
Egypt – along with Ghana – are joint favourites to win the tournament but their opponents, Burkina Faso will certainly prove to be no pushovers. Nonetheless, the Pharaohs are yet to concede a goal and will be committed to maintaining that immaculate record.
Mohmaud Kahraba scored the only goal in the 88th minute of their quarter-final clash with Morocco to book Egypt a place in the last four. With three consecutive 1-0 victories, it underlines Egypt's defensive prowess but also draws attention to their lack of goals scored.
The Pharaohs are the most successful national team in Africa, having won the Africa Cup of Nations on a record seven occasions and they will be eager to add an eighth accolade to their already outstanding trophy cabinet.
Verdict: Egypt (11/10)
Burkina Faso will look to frustrate Egypt defensively while trying to find a way through when a counter-attacking opportunity presents itself. The Pharaohs will most likely dominate possession and create more opportunities and with that being said, I’m backing them to break the Stallions with yet another rock-ribbed performance.
Written by Aaron Crowie