AFCON 2021: Mohamed Salah and Egypt’s big-game mentality sees them past Cameroon as Pharaohs reach final

Mohamed Salah and co. have qualified for the final of AFCON 2021
Mohamed Salah and co. have qualified for the final of AFCON 2021

There’s a good reason why no team has won the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) more times than Egypt. The Pharaohs are in a different class when it comes to the tournament.

Tthey have once again demonstrated their superiority by reaching the final of the 2021 edition. Carlos Queiroz’s side had to do it the hard way after being pitted against the hosts in the semi-finals. However, Egypt came through unscathed. The Pharaohs weathered the storm and played on the back foot for larger parts, before winning 3-1 on penalties.

It was a very tight game and Cameroon gave it everything they had, but Egypt were resilient in defence and ultimately picked their moments to steal the win.

Pharaohs’ big-game mentality wins the day

There is no doubt that Egypt have had better teams in the past than their current crop in Cameroon. It can be argued that Mohamed Salah is the only world-class player in the squad. However, what makes this current bunch special is their character and tactical awareness.

Queiroz is aware that he does not have the most talented team in the tournament but he has managed to make very good use of the materials available.

Not once have the Pharaohs played on the front foot in the tournament. But their big-game mentality means they never panic even when their opponents enjoy a larger share of possession and create the better chances.

Against Cameroon, Salah and co. knew they couldn’t match the intensity of the hosts after playing through extra time in their round of 16 and quarter-final matches. They, therefore, ceded possession and hoped to drag the game to penalties. The Pharaohs ultimately executed the plan to perfection and ended up defeating the hosts, who missed three of their kicks.

Egypt aiming for record-extending AFCON title

Egypt have already won the AFCON seven times and will be aiming for a record-extending eighth crown. However, they’ll be facing Senegal in the final and this encounter will be no child’s play.

Like the Pharaohs, Senegal are also mentality monsters, having grown into the tournament after a shaky start in the group stages. The Lions of Teranga will also be playing in their second successive final after missing out on the trophy against Algeria in 2019. And for a team that has never won the AFCON, they will go into the final with an extra bit of motivation.

Egypt, though, have the experience of playing in several finals and winning them. Mohamed Salah, Mohamed Elneny and a few others played in the 2017 final, which the Pharaohs lost to Cameroon and will be aiming to win it this time.

It's all set for a mouthwatering final. The summit fixture will be played on February 6, Sunday.

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Edited by Parimal
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