Pharaohs challenge Cameroon for spot in AFCON final

Alaa Moustafa
11 Min Read

Egypt’s national football team, led by Portuguese Coach Carlos Queiroz, is set for an unforgettable confrontation with its Cameroonian counterpart at the Olympic Stadium in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) currently being held in Cameroon.

Egypt qualified for the semi-finals after defeating Morocco 2-1 last Sunday at Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in the quarter-finals after a difficult match that extended to extra time before the Pharaohs managed to settle the game in their favour.

The Pharaohs are seeking to win the AFCON title, which was one of the main reasons Carlos Queiroz was hired to coach the Pharaohs after the sacking of former coach Hossam Al-Badri — who was sacked last September — in addition to reaching the World Cup.

The Portuguese tactician has some concerns regarding Thursday’s match due to the wave of injuries that hit the ranks of the Pharaohs in the previous matches of the tournament, especially after the absence of first-pick goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Shennawi and the side-lining of Ahmed Hegazy — the team’s defender — due to an injury in a connective muscle during the Morocco match that rendered him unable to complete the game.

Queiroz has, therefore, adopted a new approach to training the Pharaohs and is resorting to alternative formations to compensate for his injured players and hopefully achieve the best results possible in Thursday’s match.

The coach has also been making use of the team’s captain, star player Mohamed Salah, to motivate the rest of the team ahead of facing Cameroon in the semi-finals.

Furthermore, Queiroz and his auxiliary apparatus were keen to watch video tapes of previous matches of the Cameroon national team to identify their strengths and weaknesses and figure out an effective counter strategy.

Zamalek’s goalkeeper Mohamed Abu Gabal is set to fill in for Al-Shennawi and Mahmoud Hamdi ‘Al-Wensh’ will be returning to the pitch after recovering from an injury that side-lined him from the Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco matches.

The good news for coach Queiroz is that midfielder Hamdi Fathi is also ready to return to action after recovering from an injury as well.

Additionally, the coach will have to choose between Trezeguet and Marmoush on the left flank against Cameroon, especially after Trezeguet’s brilliant performance in the Morocco game that helped qualify the Pharaohs to the semis.

It is expected that Queiroz will push a formation consisting of Mohamed Abu Gabal, Ahmed Fattouh, Mohamed Abdel Moneim, Mahmoud Hamdi ‘Al-Wensh’, Omar Kamal, Amr Al-Souliya, Mohamed Elneny, Hamdi Fathi, Mahmoud Hassan Trezeguet, Mostafa Mohamed, and Mohamed Salah.

Salah eyes AFCON trophy 

Mohamed Salah, the captain of Egypt’s national football team and Liverpool winger, is seeking to add a new trophy to his wall with the Pharaohs by winning the African Cup of Nations Championship (AFCON) that is currently being held in Cameroon.

This comes after Salah’s contribution to winning the quarter-final against Morocco, the first candidate to win this edition of the AFCON, in which he scored once and created the goal that decided the match.

The national team also has a fiery date with Cameroon in the semis that is scheduled for Thursday evening.

Salah regained his international strength in this tournament after a long absence from scoring for his country.

The captain of the Pharaohs and his colleagues are seeking to achieve the country’s eighth title, thereby writing their names in the history of Egyptian football.

Salah and his team will also be seeking revenge in Thursday’s match against Cameroon, especially since the Indomitable Lions sent the Pharaohs home the last time they met in the 2017 AFCON.

The star player stressed to his colleagues during their training session on Wednesday to work on winning the match and reaching the final.

Gasama sparks fear amid Egyptian fans

Gambian referee Bakari Gasama will officiate the match between Egypt and Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) semi-finals.

Gasama does not enjoy the confidence of Egyptian fans due to his bad history with clubs and the national team during the past years.

The Gambian referee supervised four matches for the national team, which ended with the Pharaohs winning three times and losing once to Tunisian in the 2015 AFCON qualifiers.

Gasama is also associated with disappointing memories for Egyptians, especially Al Ahly fans, specifically the 2017 CAF Champions League final, which brought Al Ahly together with Moroccan Wydad and ended with the latter’s victory with a goal.

In 2019, there was a quarter-final match between Al-Ahly and South Africa’s Mamelodi SunDowns in which Al-Ahly needed to compensate for a five-goal loss in the first leg, and the match witnessed major refereeing mistakes. 

Gasama was subjected to sharp criticism after cancelling a correct goal for the Red Devils in the 48th minute, in addition to allowing the Sun Downs to waste nearly 10 minutes in the first half and only allocating two minutes for stoppage time.

Zamalek was also not spared from Gasama’s poor decisions, and perhaps the most famous blunder was in the second leg of the 2015 Confederation Cup semi-final against Etoile du Sahel, after the Gambian expelled Ali Gabr early on in the match to deprive Zamalek of a historical comeback, as Zamalek’s 3-0 victory was not enough to get him the qualification card.

Gasama also refereed Zamalek’s confrontation with the Sun Downs in the second leg of the African Champions League final, which ended with Zamalek’s victory with a clean goal and the South African champions winning the championship after winning three in the first leg.

Pharaohs know how to tame lions

We review the history of Egypt’s confrontations with Cameroon, and what the Pharaohs do when facing the Indomitable Lions in the playoffs of the AFCON.

The two teams have met 27 times before across various tournaments in which the Egyptian team triumphed over its Cameroonian counterpart 15 times, while conceding six matches and drawing in the remaining six.

The Pharaohs have scored a total of 33 goals in Cameroon’s net and conceded 20.

As for the AFCON, Egypt faced off against Cameroon 10 times, winning four matches, losing four, and drawing in two. The Egyptians scored 11 goals and conceded nine.

The last confrontation between the two teams left a sour taste for the Pharaohs, as they lost to the Indomitable Lions in the final of the 2017 AFCON.

The Pharaohs will be seeking to win Thursday’s match in order to reach the final and bag their eighth title after a long absence from the competition.

Portuguese clash on touchline 

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz will lead the Egyptian national team’s confrontation with Cameroon in the semi-finals of the 2021 AFCON on Thursday evening.

Queiroz, 68, has a strong resume in the football coaching field that came after a short career as an unknown goalkeeper. 

He led the Portuguese underage team and then took over the Portuguese national team in the early 1990s.

Queiroz then coached the Portuguese Sporting Lisbon team, followed by the US’ Metro Stars, and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus. He then coached the national teams of the UAE and South Africa.

After that, the Portuguese coach worked as an assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson in Manchester United and then led Real Madrid before taking over the training of the national teams of Portugal, Iran, and Colombia, respectively.

Queiroz took over the leadership of the Egyptian national team last September and led the Pharaohs to fourth place in the Arab Cup that was held in Qatar. He has also led the Egyptian team to the semi-finals of this AFCON.

He has won two titles with Sporting Lisbon by winning the Cup and the Super, as well as the Spanish Super Cup with Real Madrid, and three titles with the Portuguese underage team.

Thursday’s match will be a pure Portuguese confrontation, as the 60-year-old coach of the Cameroonian national team, António Conceição, was a right-back player for several Portuguese clubs.

Conceição led the Portuguese club’s reserve team, Sporting Braga, at the beginning of his career as a technical director in 1999, then he took over the first team temporarily in 2003. He then coached the teams of Naval, Estrella, Vitoria Setubal, and Trofine in Portugal before moving to Cluj in 2009.

He also led the Georgian Astra team before returning to Portugal to lead Moreirense and then Oyhanense. He coached Saudi Arabia’s Al-Faisaly in 2015 and worked for two terms after that with the Romanian Cluj; after which he led the Cypriot Nia Salamis. 

Conceição has been leading the Cameroon national team since September 2019.

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