23rd April 2017
Cameroon, Egypt in the Final as Ghana, Burkina Faso for 3rd Place
By Chad Klate (03/02/17)
Cameroon's Indomitable Lions meet Egypt in Sunday finals as Ghana Black Stars face Burkina Faso for third place on Saturday.
Cameroon set up a AFCON 2017 final meeting with Egypt after beating Ghana 2-0 in their semi-final clash on Thursday evening. (Pictured: Indomitable Lions of Cameroon).
The Indomitable Lions continue their chase for a sixth Africa Cup of Nations title, thanks to second half goals from Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Christian Bassogog.
Playing in the first semifinal in nine years, Cameroon surged forward and controlled proceedings for much of the opening exchanges, but the Ghanaian defense held firm as Razak Brimah kept his side in the game with key blocks.
The best chance of the half fell for Cameroon as Harrison Afful was well placed to clear a good header from Adolphe Teikeu off the line in the seventh minute.
Jordan Ayew did well to beat the offside trap with five minutes left of the first half, but Swansea frontman flashed his effort from an acute angle narrowly across the face of goal.
Ghana then imposed themselves on their opponents in the second half but were let down by horrendous decision making and finishing in the final third.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 72nd minute when Ngadeu-Ngadju capitalised on an error by Brimah, who misjudged the flight of the ball in from a free-kick, allowing Cameroon to go in front.
With the introduction of Asamoah Gyan, the Black Stars applied relentless pressure on the Cameroonian defense, but were unltimately undone by their finishing as Bassogog smartly finished off a counter to seal his side's place in the final.
Egypt and Cameroon will meet in Sunday's final, with Ghana set to face Burkina Faso in the thrid-place playoff on Saturday evening.
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary foresaw that he would save the penalties that took his side through to the Africa Cup of Nations final.
The 44-year-old kept out Burkina Faso's last two spot-kicks to win the shootout for Egypt in Wednesday's semi-final. "I had a feeling that I was going to save the final two penalties," he said.
"When we went to the shootout, our 2006 title win crossed my mind," he added, recalling his penalty shootout save from Didier Drogba to beat Ivory Coast.
El Hadary is playing at his seventh Nations Cup and has won four titles. At this tournament he became the oldest player at a major continental championship, and on Wednesday he made his 150th appearance for the Pharaohs.
It is remarkable to think he arrived in Gabon as one of Egypt's back-up goalkeepers to first-choice Ahmed El Shenawy, but injuries meant he was brought in 25 minutes into Egypt's first game.
Since then he has been formidable, conceding only one goal from normal play - in Wednesday's semi-final when Burkina Faso equalised in the second half.
And now a place in Sunday's final in Libreville, where Egypt face either Cameroon or Ghana, offers him a chance to become the first player to win five Nations Cup titles.
His first title came as a reserve in 1988, just two years after his debut, but he was at the peak of his career as Egypt won three back-to-back Nations Cup titles between 2006 and 2010.
"I'm happy to be in contention for all of these records but the most important is for Egypt to win the cup," El Hadary said.
"If we win the title, then the record will pass to me and I will be grateful. But I've never worried about my personal records. The country comes first, then the record book."
It would also be a record-extending eighth title For Egypt, who are already the most successful country in the history of the Nations Cup side - and an incredible return to glory after they failed to qualify for the last three tournaments.
Courtesy: By Chad Klate and BBC Sports