Our football writer previews the highly-anticipated AFCON 2017 final contested between Egypt and Cameroon.
The day of reckoning has arrived as two of the most decorated teams in African football clash in the AFCON 2017 final, with Egypt and Cameroon locking horns in the final.
Hosts of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon, were defeated 1-0 in their last Nations Cup final nine years ago, by – surprise, surprise – Egypt, making this encounter all the more enticing. It’s do or die with Cameroon eager to avenge that AFCON 2008 finale defeat, while Egypt will be gunning for a record eighth title!
Africa Cup of Nations Final | Sunday 5 February | Stade d'Angondje| 21:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Egypt 31/20 | Draw 18/10 | Cameroon 2/1
The Pharaohs have done it yet again, making their ninth AFCON final – the joint highest alongside Ghana. It’s been a bumpy road to the final for Egypt but one which they have taken with focus, determination and hunger for more success.
Hector Cuper's side booked their place in the final after edging Burkina Faso 4-3 on penalties after the sides played to a 1-1 draw in their semi-final showdown on Wednesday evening. Long-serving shot-stopper Essam El Hadary proved to be the difference, saving Bertrand Traore's penalty to secure victory.
Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for Egypt with a stunning rocket of a free-kick into the top-left corner before Aristide Bance leveled matters for Burkina Faso with superb chest control and an outstanding volley from close range – not a bad way for the Pharaohs to concede their first goal of the tournament.
Besides Egypt’s dangerous but effective defensive approach to the tournament, Mohamed Salah has been everything his Nation would have hoped for and more. With two goals and an assist, the Pharaohs will be hoping he can lead them to glory once more.
Cameroon are in dreamland after overpowering Ghana 2-0 to reach the AFCON 2017 final. Other than a measly two shots on target, the Black Stars – who’s last AFCON title came 35 years ago, in 1982 - disappointed against a side who were underdogs going into the semi-final clash.
The Indomitable Lions are into their first final since they lost 1-0 to Egypt in 2008. So, revenge will be on the cards for Hugo Broos' workmanship like side. This young team is on the brink of greatness and in their way, stand what looks to be a fearless Egyptian side.
Cameroon just about clawed their way out of the group stages before doing what most doubted – defeating Senegal in the quarter-finals and then Ghana in the last four. Key to their success in the knockout stages is their tactical approach to their game – neutralising their opposition’s star players.
Without so many of their established players missing, it is truly remarkable to see how far this young Cameroonian side have come. There have been bits and pieces of individual brilliance but it has been down to their superb team ethic and hard work under the tutelage of manager Broos.
Verdict: Egypt to Lift the Cup (8/10)
I tipped Egypt at the beginning of the tournament at 9/1 and I still firmly believe they have the quality and experience to get the job done. Cameroon have been great to watch and are deserved finalists but in the end, there can only be one winner. Get on Egypt to claim a nail-biting victory in the 90 minutes market.