Pharaohs to defend title

Egyptian squad aims for a record sixth Africa Cup crown when they take on Cameroon.

    Egypt's Amr Zaki, centre, is in goal-scoring form ahead of the final against the Indomitable Lions [AFP]

    The Pharaohs thrashed tournament favourites Ivory Coast 4-1 in the semi-final and have shown that their 2006 title, largely attributed to the advantage of playing at home, was no fluke.

    Four-time champions Cameroon, the last side to retain the trophy in 2002, witnessed their final opponents' style first hand when they lost 4-2 to them in their opening group match.

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    However, the West Africans believe they have improved since then and showed a heart of steel to beat Tunisia and Ghana on their way to Sunday's game at the Ohene Djan stadium.

    "After the first defeat (against Egypt) we made the changes we needed to get back in the tournament," said Otto Pfister, Cameroon coach, who hinted that all the pressure was on Egypt.

    "We will go into this final very relaxed. Being at this stage in a continental competition is quite something.

    "If we win, very good, if we lose, well, it's not a drama."

    Lions to use their pride

    "The players on the bench are very strong mentally. It is very important in a three-week tournament."

    Otto Pfister,
    Cameroon coach

    The Indomitable Lions will be without defender Andre Bikey, who was shown a straight red card for inexplicably shoving a medical assistant in the last minute of Thursday's 1-0 semi-final win over Ghana.

    However, Cameroon believe they can rely on their substitutes to help them take the Cup back to West Africa.

    "There is no such thing as a first-choice lineup. It's Africa. With the weather, the players just cannot play on and on," said Pfister, who has 25 years of experience in African football, coaching Zaire, Tunisia, Ghana, Egypt and Togo.

    "The players on the bench are very strong mentally. It is very important in a three-week tournament."

    Cameroon have power, speed, and plenty of experience, with captain Rigobert Song, striker Samuel Eto'o and midfielder Geremi about to play in their third Cup of Nations final.

    Experience all around

    Eto'o will aim to improve his Cup of Nations scoring tally from a record 16 goals after failing to net in the knockout phase following a double against Sudan in Cameroon's last group game.

    Egypt, who also have plenty of experience with captain Ahmed Hassan having played in 2006 final and scoring in the 1998 decider, are confident of retaining the title 22 years after handing Cameroon their only final defeat in the tournament's history.

    "But the most important thing is that we play with our minds. First of all, we think about what we are going to do on the pitch," said Shawky Gharib, Egypt assistant coach.

    "Now, we will win the final."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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