Three years ago, the Pharaohs of Egypt were eliminated at an early stage of the Africa Cup of Nations, which they hosted. Their 0-1 defeat by the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in front of their home fans at Cairo Stadium in the round of 16 hit team captain, Mohamed Salah, and his teammates far below the belt. Two years on, the Pharaohs are in the semifinals of the same competition in Cameroun, and Salah says it’s time to make amends. He spoke with GOWON AKPODONOR shortly after their victory over Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
Mohammed Salah says there is so much at stake in this semifinal match against Indomitable Lions of Cameroun. “In the first place, we have a duty to prove to the entire world that the Pharaohs still have what it takes to be crowned champions of Africa. We disappointed our fans in 2019, when we hosted the tournament. We have to make amends this time,” Salah said.
In 2017, when Gabon hosted the tournament, the final game featured Egypt against Cameroun. Then, the Pharaohs were tipped as favourites to lift the title, while the Indomitable Lions were tagged the worst Camerounian team in a generation.
On that evening in Gabon, Cameroun created no clear chances in the first half, but came into the party in the second half to break the Egyptians’ heart. Suddenly, the music changed, and the Indomitable Lions became the best in a generation, the first to win the tournament in 15 years. In that squad was the hugely influential centre forward, Vincent Aboubakar, who is now the team captain.
Things have changed and Mo Salah, who is one of the most influential footballers in the world today, says the Pharaohs will match the Indomitable Lions in all departments of the game.
The Liverpool striker admitted that the lone goal defeat inflicted on them by Super Eagles of Nigeria in Garoua served as a wake-up call in the tournament.
The seven-time African champions could not believe their eyes when the Super Eagles shocked them in the group opener. That victory by the Augustine Eguavoen-led Eagles, and two other wins against Sudan and Guinea Bissau gave Nigerian fans, including President Muhammadu Buhari, the false impression that the team had arrived before they met a brick wall in the round of 16 against Tunisia.
While Nigeria joined the list of early exits from Cameroun, Egypt marched on. First, they got their campaign back on track with a slim 1-0 win over Guinea Bissau. Mohammed Salah scored the goal, was voted Man-of-the-Match. They survived against Sudan and also scaled the round of 16 hurdles.
Mo Salah is confident the Pharaohs will equally scale the hurdles against the host, Cameroun.
“This is a new generation of Pharaohs,” Salah told The Guardian with a smile. “After the defeat against Nigeria we had to rearrange ourselves. We have seen so many upsets in this tournament, and we know the only way to move on is to continue to improve on our game. I am happy we beat Tunisia to make it to the semifinals. It does not end there though.
“We have Cameroun as our next opponents, and we will double our efforts. It will take a collective effort. Yes, I am the team captain, but Salah alone can’t do it. We are in a competition, and I believe if we take our chances, we can overcome Cameroun and possibly go on and win the trophy on February 6,” Salah said.
For Egypt coach, Carlos Queiroz, the semifinals against Cameroun is another big test for the Pharaohs. “But we will survive it the same way we survived against Tunisia,” he said.
Original story on Guardian