old rivals

AFCON Cameroon – Egypt, a clash full of history

By Alexis Billebault

Posted on February 2, 2022 15:38

 Mohamed Salah of Egypt celebrates victory after scoring winning penalty during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon Finals Last 16 match between Ivory Coast and Egypt at Japoma Stadium, Douala, Cameroon on 26 January 2022 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Mohamed Salah of Egypt celebrates victory after scoring winning penalty during the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Afcon Finals Last 16 match between Ivory Coast and Egypt at Japoma Stadium, Douala, Cameroon on 26 January 2022 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

On Thursday evening at the Olembe stadium, Cameroon and Egypt will face each other in the semi-finals of the AFCON. The two teams have often crossed paths in this competition, and their confrontations have been vibrant affairs.

The Indomitable Lions and the Pharaohs have already met twenty-seven times since 23 February 1983, date of the first ever Cameroon-Egypt clash (a friendly which ended 2-0).

Tonight’s match will have much more at stake, as the winner will qualify for the final on Sunday 9 February.

Here is a look back at some of the most important matches of the past…

1984: Egypt beat the future African champion

On 4 April 1984, during the CAN organised in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt dominated Cameroon (1-0) in the first round, thanks to a goal by Taher Abou Zeid, a player who would be remembered two years later by the Lions.

The two teams nevertheless qualified for the semi-finals, since at that time the CAN was played with eight players. The Cameroonians’ initial defeat did not prevent them from becoming African champions for the first time in their history by beating Nigeria in the final (3-1).

1986: Low blows in Cairo

Egypt, which had not won the AN since 1959, was determined to put an end to this long period in the wilderness, even if it meant using highly questionable moral methods. And the Cameroonians were going to find that out the hard way. On the eve of the final, the Indomitable Lions learned that there was not a single training ground available in Cairo, an argument that left the technical staff and the players doubtful.

While CAF, whose headquarters, it should be noted, is based in the Egyptian capital, did not lift a finger to solve the problem, Claude Le Roy, the French coach of Cameroon, had to organise a training session in a public garden in the midst of families. A few hours later, the Cameroonians were informed that Taher Abou Zeid – Egypt’s best player – was no longer suspended for the final, his second yellow card having been cancelled by CAF. The Pharaohs went on to win their third title on penalties after a very tight final (0-0, 5-4 on penalties).

1988: The Lions’ revenge

Claude Le Roy and the players who had been in Egypt two years earlier still hadn’t digested the methods used by the Pharaohs, with the help of CAF. The revenge of the Indomitable Lions would be brilliant, and it took place very early during the CAF organised in Morocco.

On 14 March, in Rabat, Roger Milla scored the only goal of the match, during the first match of the first round. This defeat had serious consequences for the North Africans, as they were eliminated at the end of the group stage.

Cameroon, on the other hand, went on to win their second continental trophy against their favourite victims Nigeria (1-0).

2008: Pharaohs punish Cameroon twice

The 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, organised in Ghana, remains without doubt one of the worst memories in the history of Cameroonian football because the Lions were beaten twice by their Egyptian rivals. Once was during the first round (4-2), despite a double from Samuel Eto’o. But the worst came for one of the teammates who was then playing for FC Barcelona.

After beating Tunisia (3-2) and Ghana (1-0) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, they failed again in the final against the Pharaohs, who had relied on a goal by their star player Mohamed Aboutreika with 12 minutes left to retain their title and win their sixth trophy. Two years later in Angola, Egypt will give another lesson to Cameroon in the quarterfinals (3-1), before winning

2017: The end of the curse

The final of the 2017 CAF was not one that many specialists had imagined. Cameroon was at best considered seen as outsider among the others, while Egypt, absent from the three previous editions (2012, 2013 and 2015), was not thought to be a major threat to the favourites at the time: Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and DRC.

But the Indomitable Lions made it to the final after beating Senegal and Ghana, while the Pharaohs, who played a minimalist and boring game, beat Morocco and Burkina Faso.

Mohamed Salah’s teammates thought they had their eighth Africa Cup of Nations in the bag after Elneny opened the scoring. But Nkoulou rebalanced the score at the hour mark, and Aboubakar gave the Lions the chance to make up for their 1986 and 2008 defeats by breaking the Egyptian deadlock at two minutes before the end.

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