Sadness prevailed in Egypt after losing the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, which was held in Cameroon from. Egypt lost to Senegal 4-2 on penalties in the final game on Sunday. The Pharaohs had an incredible run in the tournament, knocking out the titans of Africa and earned respect from everyone.
This was the third AFCON final defeat for the Pharaohs, as they came runner-up twice before in 1962 and 2017. In the 1962 edition, Egypt lost to Ethiopia 4-2. In 2017, the Pharaohs lost to Cameroon 2-1 in the final.
The Egyptian Football Association achieved huge financial gains, despite the defeat, as the runner-up got a $2.75m prize. Senegal won the grand prize by collecting $5m, the largest financial prize in the history of African competitions.
Once the referee, Victor Gomez, blew the whistle and announced the victory of Senegal, the Egyptian players burst into tears, as they battled their way to the final after an exhausting tournament for them with all four of their knockout games going into extra time.
After the game, the Egyptian fans gathered in front of their national team’s residency in Cameroon, to greet and console the players and coaching staff. The team left shortly back to Cairo and arrived around 10am Monday.
Senegalese star Sadio Mane won the award for best player in the tournament, Edward Mendy won the best goalkeeper award, and Vincent Aboubakar won the tournament’s top scorer award.
On social media, thousands expressed their pride and appreciation to the Egyptian national team for their performance in the tournament, on top of whom was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
The president said: “I would like to extend my greetings and appreciation to the players of our national football team for their great performance in the Africa Cup of Nations”
Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, coach of the Egyptian national football team, also expressed his pride for the team’s performance during the tournament. He wrote on Twitter: “I have only a few humble words to share with you from the bottom of my heart. I feel proud of all of you and thank you very much for everything you have done for the Egypt team.”
Road to final
The Egyptian team, who have the most AFCON final appearances (10 times), collected 6 points and scored just two goals in their three group matches, edging out Guinea-Bissau and Sudan with 1-0 scorelines after losing their tournament opener 1-0 to Nigeria.
In the knockout stage, they beat Ivory Coast 5-4 on penalties before edging out Morocco 2-1. Egypt reached the final after beating hosts Cameroon 3-1 on penalties in the semi-final.
Senegal played the AFCON final for the third time in their history and the second time in a row. They presented a solid performance throughout this tournament. The team’s coach Aliou Cisse at the helm in the 2021 and 2019 editions and was captain when Senegal lost to Cameroon in the 2002 tournament.
Senegal, too, had an ordinary performance in the group stage. Two stalemates against Guinea and Malawi followed a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in the opener that helped them sneak through.
A 2-0 win over Cabo Verde, 3-1 scoreline against Equatorial Guinea, and another 3-1 win over Burkina Faso helped the side reach the final.
Rebirth of amazing goalkeeper
Egypt and Zamalek goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal “Gabaski” grabbed the spotlight in the Africa Cup of Nations, after he participated as a substitute against Côte d’Ivoire in the round of 16, after the injury of Mohamed El-Shennawy, the first goalkeeper for the Pharaohs.
In the final, Abo Gabal presented a brilliant performance and was named Man of the Match. He also saved five penalties against Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Senegal, besides dozens of dazzling saves in the four knockout games.
In the quarter-finals, Egypt beat Morocco thanks to the brilliance of Abo Gabal who played most of the game despite his injury. He recovered quickly to play against Cameroon in the semi-final and led the Pharaohs to the final after remarkable saves during the match and then in the penalty shootouts.
Abo Gabal truly rediscovered himself in the tournament, after he proved his ability to guard the Pharaohs’ goal. Abo Gabal was not even in the squad of the Egyptian team last November when they participated in the Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar. He was excluded after his disappointing performance in Zamalek’s defeat to Al Ahly 5-3 in the Egyptian Premier League.
Salah returns to Liverpool
Mohamed Salah, the captain of the Egyptian national team and the star of Liverpool, left Cameroon on Monday for England, on a private plane, to join the Reds. After the final game, he seemed devastated due to the loss.
The AFCON final saw one of world football’s most exciting attacking duos facing off against each other as Salah led Egypt against a Senegal side spearheaded by his club teammate Sadio Mane.
After the game, Mane said, “I told Mohamed Salah that he is a great player and that he is the best in the world now, and that he would have several other chances with the national team to win the Africa Cup of Nations.”
Mane added: “I assured Salah that I am very confident in his ability to achieve many great victories and achievements with the national team in the coming years.”
No individual awards for Egypt!
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) did not grant any of the individual awards of AFCON to Egypt, despite the brilliance of the Pharaohs throughout the tournament, most notably Mohamed Salah, who won the award for best player in two matches, and Abo Gabal who saved five penalties!
The organizing committee awarded the award the best player and goalkeeper prizes to Senegalese Sadio Mane and Edward Mendy, respectively. Both players presented normal performances and arguably were not the best in the tournament.
Mendy admitted after the match: “Abo Gabal was the most deserving of the best goalkeeper award in the Africa Cup of Nations, especially after his great performance during the tournament.”