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Preview: Hosts Cameroon meet Egypt in semifinal matchup between African powers

Two of Africa’s most successful national teams will do battle for a place in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations final on Sunday as hosts Cameroon take on Egypt in Yaoundé. The hosts turned in a complete performance in their 2-0 victory over Gambia in the quarterfinals, dominating from start to finish after an uninspiring Round of 16 win against Comoros. Egypt have done brilliantly to overcome Ivory Coast and Morocco in the knockout stages, and will once again look to upset the odds with several regular starters unavailable due to injury.

Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions have their supporters believing and pressure will be high against an Egypt side that has proven to be quite stubborn. Manager Toni Conceição did not give much away regarding how his team will contain Egyptian superstar Mohamed Salah, but the Portuguese tactician paid respect to Egypt and the Liverpool forward while indicating that his team will find success by being balanced in the attacking and defensive departments. Captain and striker Vincent Aboubakar was not as respectful, declaring that Salah “is having a great season in the Premier League” but that he “doesn’t impress me much”.

Cameroonian Football Federation president Samuel Eto’o had nothing but praise for the team’s performance against Gambia when he spoke to the Indomitable Lions squad, promising an increase to the team’s bonuses when speaking to them following the quarterfinal. Criticism is something that the players have had to deal with from goalkeeper André Onana earlier in the competition to central midfielder André Zambo Anguissa currently. Zambo Anguissa stated he understands that the fans judge performances based on passion rather than data, but that he remains confident and has the backing of his teammates. Cameroon has shown a tendency throughout the tournament to improve their performance as the match goes on, making it important for the Indomitable Lions to start well.

For Egypt, the Cameroon match is not something they will need any extra motivation for. The Pharaohs were written off by their own supporters after struggling to produce goals during the group stage, but now have overcome two massive tests against high-flying Ivory Coast and North African rivals Morocco to get to this stage. Taking the knockout stages one match at a time without thinking ahead to the final continues to be the strategy for Egypt, but Salah did warn the Cameroon team by proclaiming he will not return to Egypt without the AFCON trophy.

Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal revealed that he will be ready for the match on Thursday after being forced off with an injury against Morocco. However, veteran center back Ahmed Hegazy will be out for the remainder of the competition. Versatile defender Aymen Ashraf appears to be the leading candidate to partner Mohamed Abdelmonem in the center of defense if Ahmed El-Fotouh is fit to start at left back. Egypt will focus primarily on keeping the Cameroonian attack contained knowing that Salah and fellow forwards Omar Marmoush and Trezeguet are capable of threatening with their playmaking ability.

Key Matchup: Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko Ekambi (CMR) vs. Mohamed Abdelmonem and Aymen Ashraf (EGY)

Encouraged by the crowd, Cameroon will push forward and attempt to get on the front foot, making it essential for Egypt to weather the early storm. Egypt’s defense has shown resilience in during the competition despite injuries, but the injury to Hegazy takes away a veteran leader. Containing Aboubakar and Toko Ekambi will be a test of the highest order for Abdelmonem and whoever partners him in the center of defense.

Prediction: Cameroon 3-1 Egypt

Further Reading

Cameroon v Egypt – Historic semifinal (CAF Online)
Match Facts – Cameroon v Egypt (CAF Online)
Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou-Gabal gives injury update (KingFut)
Egypt COVID-free ahead of Cameroon clash in Nations Cup (Ahram)

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