Last-minute victors

2008-02-11 00:00

FOR the second time running, Egypt are African champions having dispatched of Cameroon 1-0 in an engrossing final at Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra last night with a clinical efficiency that has been their trademark at the 2008 African Cup of Nations.

Mohamed Abou Trika’s 78th minute strike was the difference between the two sides on the scoresheet, but the gulf was wider than just the single goal. Cameroon have looked a power on the wane at this tournament, despite their progression to the final, and were outclassed and outplayed by the superbly efficient Egyptians.

The Indomitable Lions had their chances, but a largely unthreatening performance was summed up by another quiet game from tournament top scorer Samuel Eto’o, who did not add to his five goals notched up in Group C in the knockout stages.

The last game of Ghana 2008 was watched by a good crowd in an intense cup final atmosphere. The trophy was brought onto the field by four traditionally-clothed bearers accompanied by drummers as the Nations Cup ended with a touch of the theatrical.

Egypt were full value for their victory. The Pharaohs played their toughest match in the final before the final, their 4-1 deconstruction of Ivory Coast in the semi-finals. Against Cameroon, the Pharaohs just had to not choke, which they managed, and captain Ahmed Hassan collected the trophy from Ghanaian president John Kufuor.

Both sides had their chances in the first half, though it was the Egyptians who looked convincingly the more threatening.

Eto’o’s fluffed header from Geremie Njitap’s cross from the right suggested the Barcelona striker would not regain his touch for the final. Geremie also tested goalkeeper Essam El Hadary with a free-kick in the 15th minute, who made a tough save look simple.

Egypt always looked like they could score. Striker Emad Moteab could have notched up a first-half brace with two chances on a platter that were superbly saved by Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni.

Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan’s 22-metre free-kick in the eighth minute forced a save from Kameni. Cameroon suffered a setback on the quarter hour when midfield star Alexandre Song had to be replaced because of injury by Gilles Binya.

Moteab’s first effort saved by Kameni was a 10-metre shot in the 19th minute, with Abou Trika blasting just over the bar from the rebound. Abou Trika then shot wide from the left of the Cameroon area after being fed by Hani Said’s chip.

In the 35th minute Moteab had his second opportunity, from which he should have scored, stopped by Kameni after the striker had run onto Hassan’s excellently weighted chip over the top to be one-on-one with the keeper.

Egypt began the second half in similar fashion to the first as Zaky’s shot from a narrow angle on the left was straight at Kameni, then Hosny Abd Rabou’s well-struck 20m strike through a crowded area was excellently stopped by the ‘keeper.

In the 62nd minute Hosny’s header from Abou Trika’s floated cross struck the left upright, and it seemed almost impossible for the Egyptians to put the ball in the net.

The Pharaohs did finally make a breakthrough with 12 minutes to go. Substitute Mohamed Zidan appeared to have been dispossessed by Rigobert Song on the left edge of the Cameroon area, but showed determination to recover the ball and feed Abou Trika running through for an easy finish.

Almost the entire Egyptian team swamped Abou Trika in a dramatic celebration in the Cameroon net.

As the north Africans defended their lead, Cameroon had a chance to equalise when Alain Nkong fed Stephane Mbia on the right whose shot forced a one-handed save from goalkeeper of the tournament El Hadary.

In injury time Rigobert Song headed Geremie’s cross over the bar, moments before the final whistle sparked celebrations among the Egyptian fans, players and bench.

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