EgyptAfrican Nations CupVS
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We have ourselves an absolute cracker of an ACFON semi-final in Yaounde on Thursday night as hosts Cameroon take on an Egypt side that have been somewhat underwhelming so far.
The Indomitable Lions have arguably been the most impressive side in the tournament, scoring plenty of goals in comparison to their peers, and they’ve played with an element of freedom despite the pressure that comes with hosting AFCON.
Despite Mo Salah arriving at the tournament in the best form of his career for club side Liverpool, Egypt are yet to inspire as an attacking force, failing to score more than once over the course of 90 minutes in any of their five games at the tournament.
And we fancy the home side to take advantage and play with the sort of flair that the Pharaohs will have a tough time handling in the face of a partisan crowd.
Fatigue can play a big part in the destiny of a major tournament and the fact that both of Egypt’s knockout games have gone to extra time is likely to play into Cameroonian hands.
Egypt first needed penalties to beat Ivory Coast, following a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes, before needing to go the distance again to beat Morocco after extra time.
No such problems for Cameroon, though, who will certainly go into this game the fresher of the two sides after winning both inside the 90.
There were whispers of doubts about the hosts after they made hard work of minnows Comoros in the last-16, but their swagger was back in the quarters as they comfortable beat Gambia to reach this stage.
Egypt, meanwhile, haven’t convinced, and with Cameroon on the crest of a wave we’re backing them to make the final with a victory in 90 minutes at odds of 6/5 with 888.
It really is a great time to be a Cameroonian.
The Indomitable Lions appear unshackled by the weight of expectation and are playing some excellent football. Not only are they scoring goals, but they’re creating plenty of chances too.
And in striker Vincent Aboubakar they have a man in hot form, with six goals in five games so far. His strike partner, Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi, is only one behind on five, so the hosts aren’t short of options when it comes to finding the net.
Meanwhile, a confidence-boosting clean sheet against Gambia last week will have done their defensive line the world of good ahead of Thursday’s test against, arguably, the best player in world football in Salah.
Keep him quiet and they’re halfway to reaching the final.
A semi-final appearance would have been the absolute minimum expectations placed on this talented Egyptian side, and while Salah has shown his quality in flashes, he hasn’t stood out as one of the tournament’s top performers.
But he could do with some support, with his side lacking the cutting edge of the likes of Cameroon and Senegal so far.
That said, they’ve recovered well from their opening-day defeat to Nigeria, keeping three clean sheets in their following four games, with their only concession coming against Morocco in the quarter finals.
Concerns remain about the condition of the squad going into this one, though, with Cameroon doing very little travelling in comparison to the Pharaohs moving between Garoua, Douala and the capital, Yaounde.
Cameroon and Egypt have faced off 28 times, with their first meeting taking place in 1983, but Thursday night’s hosts won’t want to be reminded of recent history between the two.
Despite winning the most recent match between the two back in 2017, it had been largely one-way traffic before then, with the Egyptians going undefeated in the seven previous games and winning five times in that eight-year period.
We could well be in for goals, though, with both teams scoring in five of the last six clashes.
This one takes places at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde, the same city in which Egypt confirmed their place in the last four with their victory over Morocco.
Cameroon have spent the vast majority of their tournament in the capital, with the only exception being their quarter-final victory over Gambia, which took place in Douala.
But this will be their first appearance at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in this tournament, with their four other games in Yaounde taking place at the Olembe Stadium.
Cameroon have a chance to book their date with destiny and against a leggy, underperforming Egyptian side, the stars have aligned for them to get the job done.
But Egypt are one of the best sides on the continent when not in possession, so the hosts will have to be patient going forward, while also keeping an eye on Salah at the other end.
But it just feels like the momentum is with the Cameroonians at present and with so many goals in their team, it’s hard to see anything other than a home win that will book Cameroon’s place in the AFCON final.