It’s Egypt versus Cameroon semifinals as Pharaohs silence Atlas Lions
Egypt needed a hero after going down to Morocco five minutes into their quarterfinal clash, and Mohammed Salah, one of the best players in the world today, rose to the occasion.
Although Salah had scored only one goal in Egypt’s past four matches, he chose yesterday to show Africa that he is still the king of the game when he rallied his mates to a befitting 2-1 defeat of the Atlas Lions and a place in the semifinal of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
Before yesterday, Cameroon had not been a particularly clement country to the Egyptians, who were looking to surpass the second-round finish they recorded two years ago when they hosted the competition.
They started badly, losing to Nigeria 0-1, beat Guinea Bissau 1-0 and defeated Sudan by the same margin to make the round of 16, where they dispatched Cote d’Ivoire after a nail-biting penalty shoots out.
Yesterday, Egypt looked like a different team as they roused their fans with determination and a hunger for success that was lacking in their earlier endeavours.
It is said that a solid defence plus Salah is equal to progress, but the semifinals ticket did not come easy for the Pharaohs.
Egypt went behind when Ayman Ashraf hacked down Achraf Hakimi inside the box in the sixth minute and Soufiane Boufal caressed home the penalty.
That forced Egypt out in pursuit of parity, but Morocco held their ground in the first half.
The second half began with Egypt taking the fight to their foes with Salah employing his trademark runs towards opposing defenders.
First, he created a chance that Trézéguet, a half-time substitute for the injured Ahmed Hegazi, volleyed just wide. His involvement helped force a corner and, after Mostafa Mohamed’s header was saved, Salah was there to level with a smart sidefoot
After 90 minutes, the gladiators had to fight out another 30 minutes and as it happened in the second half, the Egyptians seized the initiative, which yielded the winner in the 100th minute.
Again, Salah was the architect as he broke down the right and, having taken out three defenders, crossed low for Trézéguet to knock in the winner.
Yesterday’s victory fetched Egypt what promises to be their toughest task yet, a clash with hosts, Cameroun, in the semifinals on Thursday.