AFCON 2017 final: Momentum is with Cameroon but never write off Egypt | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.02.2017
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AFCON 2017

AFCON 2017 final: Momentum is with Cameroon but never write off Egypt

The Pharaohs against the Indomitable Lions, what is not to love about the Nations Cup final? Record champions Egypt have a coach famous for losing finals while Cameroon had no right to go so far after a troubled buildup.

Afrika Cup - Finale - Kamerun - Ägypten 0:1 2008 (picture-alliance/dpa/T. Ridley)

The 2008 iteration of this same final ended in a 1-0 win for the Pharaohs

The odds seemed to be vastly against Cameroon at the start of this tournament but suddenly the footballing gods look to be against seven-times champions Egypt as the pair gear up for Sunday's final in Libreville.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper has lost every major final he has ever managed in, including two Champions League final defeats with Valencia in 2000 and 2001.

His hopes of changing that statistic have not been helped by a number of injuries for the final, including Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny. Meanwhile star keeper Essam El Hadary, the 44-year-old who saved two spotkicks in the penalty shootout win over Burkina Faso in the semifinal, is suffering with a cold but should play.

"Our problem is our injuries and players who are also very exhausted with short intervals between the matches. The game will be decided on who is best prepared," Cuper told a news conference. "We are still working on our strategy."

Asked how many finals he had won in his career, the Argentine simply replied: "You can read my record."

Egypt, who failed to reach the last three tournaments but are in a record-equaling ninth final, have been criticized by pundits over their defensive style of play throughout the tournament in Gabon. But Cuper looks set to stick with the approach given how dangerous a youthful Cameroon have looked.

"Cameroon have deservedly reached the final, they are a strong team, they play as a collective. They have skillful and talented players," he said.

Kamerun Fußball Nationalmannschaft | Torwart Fabrice Ondoa (Getty Images/AFP/I. Sanogo)

Ondoa has been the standout player of the tournament

'I have been proved right'

The Indomitable Lions have stunned everyone, including their own fans, by getting this far. The once mighty four-times champions were expected to flop after a series of top players including Schalke’s Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting refused call-ups.

"Today we have a team that is physically very fit but that isn't the only advantage we have," said Cameroon coach Hugo Broos, previously heavily lambasted in the country's media.

"I have no time to talk about those who are absent. I want to concentrate on the players here. But the door remains open.

"Before arriving in Cameroon, I already had a project in my head. When I started, it was clear that I could do what I wanted or what others had wanted. Today, I have been proved right."  

Like Egypt they have progressed thanks in large part to their goalkeeper - 21-year-old Fabrice Ondoa - but they have been much more attacking than the Pharaohs and deservedly beat fancied Ghana 2-0 in the last four.

The momentum seems to be with Cameroon, who have also had to deal with a familiar bonus row with their federation, and the fairy tale ending would see them crowned champions on Sunday ahead of hosting the next tournament in 2019.

But Egypt have won the two Nations Cup finals they have played against Cameroon, while Cuper and El Hadary are nothing if not wily. A classic clash of styles awaits. 

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