Egypt turned up for the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola with only one intention, to defend their status as African champions, and by any assessment they’ve made a pretty good fist of achieving that aim.
Thursday’s 4-0 wipe out of eight-man Algeria put the six-time champions into Sunday’s final against a Ghana side that has overcome a spate of injuries to star players to make their first final in 18 years.
One of Egypt’s goalscorers in Benguela, Mohamed Zidan, said: “We were one million times better than Algeria. We haven’t won five games here in this competition to lose the final.”
Captain Ahmed Hassan, in his 171st international, warned Ghana to expect more of the same silky smooth football from the kings of Africa.
“Against Ghana we will continue to play as we have started. We don’t care how they play, we are here to defend our title, and we’ll do everything to succeed.
“Our 4-0 win over Algeria has proved we are the best team in Africa, without argument.
“It wasn’t a question of revenge against Algeria [for the World Cup play-off defeat in November]. I told my players before the semifinal that you are the best and what you have to do is prove it on the pitch.
“We don’t care about the World Cup and losing the play-off to Algeria, we put ourselves in that position after dropping two points against Zambia in an earlier qualifier.
“Anyway we are now seeing the fruits of our effort here.” Egypt coach Hassan Shehata was purring over the Pharoahs’ latest imperious performance.
“We retained our dignity with this win, we proved our strong image. I tried to do the best with the players I’ve got [Egypt like Ghana are missing some key players to injury].”
Sunday’s climax will be a fascinating clash between the champions whose defence and attack is rock solid and the Black Stars’ mix of Under-20 world champions thrust into the spotlight and a smattering of experienced players.
Egypt, unbeaten in the Africa Cup of Nations now for a record 18 games, arrive in Luanda from Benguela later Friday, with a training session planned for late on Saturday.
Ghana are already in town and trained Friday morning as Serb coach Milovan Rajevic maps out his blueprint to topple the continetal champions for what would be the west African country’s fifth title.
Despite Ghana’s superb run to the final it is Egypt who will start as hot favourites.
Egypt assistant coach Shawky Gharib commented: “We have said from the very beginning of the competition ‘we are the champions, we are here to defend our title and only to do that’.
“The Ghana team are very strong, they are going to the World Cup.”
A World Cup that will be sadly on the evidence of their imperious run to Sunday’s final — 14 goals to two conceded, the only side unbeaten after five games — be missing Egypt.
“We have finished all our five games in Angola with victories and have played three World Cup qualifiers [Nigeria 3-1, Cameroon 3-1, Algeria 4-0], scoring 10 goals,” noted Gharib.
“We won our games because of the strategies that we planned and used. We also planned well on how to handle each opponent since the start of the competition.
“Against Algeria we played an excellent match for African football.
“Now we are due to meet another team going to South Africa in Ghana, they are one of the strongest teams here.” — AFP