Egypt retained their Africa Cup of Nations crown on Sunday when Mohamed Aboutraika lifted the champions to a 1-0 win over Cameroon and a record sixth title.
The defending champions ensured they held on to the trophy when, after a slick passing movement, Aboutraika struck in the 77th minute.
”We are delighted to win. It’s a great achievement,” said the al-Ahly star.
”Now we have to make sure that we keep this form going into the World Cup qualifiers.
”It’s one of the greatest days of my life. It’s up there with winning the African Champions League.”
The result was the Pharaohs’ final act in what has been a hugely impressive campaign in Ghana, which saw them build on the defeat of Cameroon in their opening group game to record victories over Sudan, Tunisia and then CÃƒÂ´te d’Ivoire in the semifinals.
The only minor blemish on an otherwise perfect passage to the continental trophy was the 1-1 draw with Zambia.
Egypt added the 2008 trophy to their wins in 1957, 1959, 1986 (on penalties against Cameroon), 1998 and 2006, with coach Hassan Shehata joining an exclusive club of just two coaches who have won back-to-back titles.
Shehata had promised that his players could keep the trophy won in Cairo two years ago and his prediction was proved right on a hot and humid night in the Ghana capital.
If the competition had followed the popular script, Sunday’s finale would have pitted Ghana against pre-tournament favourites CÃƒÂ´te d’Ivoire.
The sparring finalists put on a fast-moving display for watching former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho and the rest of the crowd.
Cameroon were without suspended defender Andre Bikey, but Alexandre Song, stretchered off in the semifinal win over Ghana, was on the pitch.
However, the Arsenal defender, clearly out of sorts, only lasted a quarter of an hour, limping off dejectedly with Benfica back Gilles Binya taking his place.
Before Song’s exit, Hosny Abd Rabou had kicked off Egypt’s attack with a sweetly taken 30m free-kick, which flew over the Cameroon defence to test Carlos Kameni.
The Cameroon keeper had to look sharp minutes later to deny Emad Moteab’s angled shot.
Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan then did well to stick his foot out to deflect Joel Epaule’s potent effort.
Pharaohs’ keeper Essam al-Hadary, man of the match against CÃƒÂ´te d’Ivoire, was up to the job of denying a 30m free-kick special from Geremi, and on the counter-attack Kameni had to produce an acrobatic dive to keep out Moteab’s dangerous strike.
Samuel Eto’o took on the Egyptian defence single-handedly approaching the break, only for his shot to edge wide of the far post, while again on the counter-attack, Kameni performed sterling work to close down a shot from the charging Moteab in the box.
The only surprise was that neither country had been able to add to their 14-goal haul since battle commenced three weeks ago.
Egypt looked the more likely to score in the opening 45 minutes but captain Rigobert Song, Kameni and the rest of the Cameroon defence were holding tight.
Eto’o, the competition’s all-time top scorer, had the Egyptians scampering around the hour mark with a lightning run down the left.
Cameroon coach Otto Pfister then introduced striker Mohamadou Idrissou for a midfielder, Achille Emana, as he sought the keys to unlock the Egyptians, with Shehata swapping Moteab for sharp-shooting Hamburg striker Mohamed Zidan.
Zidan scored twice in Egypt’s win over Cameroon earlier in the tournament and he was instrumental in putting them into a 77th-minute lead.
He robbed the tiring Rigobert Song and his slide-rule pass from the left found the unmarked Aboutraika, who calmly struck low and hard past Kameni.
That was the al-Ahly midfielder’s fourth goal, and it set up a fraught final quarter of an hour as Cameroon frantically tried to get back into it, but the defending champions held on to take the continental cup back to Cairo. — AFP