Lions hun­gry for vic­tory

Egypt are firm favourites, but in­ex­pe­ri­enced Cameroon may cause sur­prise up­set

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

After wit­ness­ing some of their top play­ers’ with­drawal, not many would have put their money on Cameroon reach­ing the fi­nal of the Africa Cup of Na­tions.

That be­longs to the past be­cause to­day the Indomitable Lions will con­test the fi­nal against seven-time cham­pi­ons Egypt with­out eight play­ers who turned down their call-ups.

What Cameroon have done with­out Joël Matip, Al­lan Nyom, Eric Maxim Choupo-Mot­ing, Maxime Poundjé, An­dré Zambo An­guissa, Ibrahim Amadou, An­dre Onana and Guy N’dy Assembé is re­mark­able and com­mend­able.

The Indomitable Lions were not sup­posed to get out of the group stages and, more­over, they were not given a chance to beat Sene­gal in the quar­ter­fi­nals and the Black Stars of Ghana in the semis, with­out so many of their big names.

But Hugo Broos’ side, who have been the sur­prise of the tour­na­ment, did not look over­awed by their star-stud­ded op­po­si­tion and de­fied all odds to book a place in the fi­nal.

Cameroon last won the tour­na­ment in 2002 and lift­ing the tro­phy would be a huge re­turn to form.

One last hur­dle for the west Africans and they will be cham­pi­ons.

But they come up against an Egyp­tian side who are on the rise fol­low­ing a rather lean spell since the 2010 fi­nal.

The Pharaohs have played Cameroon in two Africa Cup of Na­tions fi­nals be­fore in 1986 and 2008 and won both.

The fact that Egypt have con­ceded just one goal in the tour­na­ment and Cameroon just two shows that the two teams are solid at the back.

After a six-year ab­sence from the fi­nals, Egypt have come back with vengeance and are on the verge of con­quer­ing the con­ti­nent once again and ex­tend­ing their own record as the most suc­cess­ful Na­tions Cup side with an eighth title.

Mo­hamed El­neny, who missed the quar­ter­fi­nal and semi­fi­nal vic­to­ries over Morocco and Burk­ina Faso, could re­turn from a calf in­jury. Mo­hamed Salah has been out­stand­ing for the north Africans and is the man to watch tonight.

On pa­per, Egypt go into the game as hot favourites to con­tinue their dom­i­nance over Cameroon. How­ever, this tour­na­ment has shown that up­sets do hap­pen in foot­ball and Cameroon could not be dis­missed as no-hop­ers.

The 2019 Afcon hosts will want to be able to de­fend the title at home in two years’ time.

Once again the spot­light will fall on Egypt vet­eran goal­keeper Es­sam El-Hadary, who is the rea­son his side is in the fi­nal. In con­trast, at 21 Cameroon’s goal­keeper Fabrice On­doa is less than half of his age but has shown ma­tu­rity be­yond his age.

Broos has been able to weave his side into a solid unit that fight for each other. What­ever hap­pens, the young Cameroon side has al­ready made its mark.

The fi­nal is not only about north Africa ver­sus west Africa, but also ex­pe­ri­ence against in­ex­pe­ri­ence.

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