AFCON: Who gets last spot at Russia 2017?
Only one of the eight places at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, to be held on 17 June to 2 July, has yet to be taken. It will be filled by either Cameroon or Egypt, who will go head to head in the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 on Sunday 5 February. The victors will join Chile, Germany and Australia in Group B at Russia 2017, with Portugal, Mexico, New Zealand and the hosts fighting it out in Group A.
Egypt-Cameroon, Stade de l’Amitie, Libreville (Gabon), 20:00 (local time)
It’s official! Two of Africa’s footballing superpowers have regained their place at the top table after several years in the wilderness. Cameroon and Egypt now have the opportunity to add yet another trophy to their respective lists of honours, after enjoying virtually flawless runs to the continental final.
Hector Cuper’s Egypt owe their place in the tournament showpiece to their miserly defence, tactical nous and their ability to make goals count, having recorded three 1-0 wins to date. Essam El Hadary, their 44-year-old living legend of a goalkeeper, has been at his very best, conceding just the one goal to date and playing the hero in the semi-final shootout win over Burkina Faso. Mohamed Salah has also lived up to expectations as the Pharaohs’ star man, while Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan has only added to his burgeoning reputation.
The Indomitable Lions will be lining up against them thanks to their team spirit and the energy of their new breed, who have been skilfully managed by Hugo Broos. The Belgian coach has successfully juggled tactics and formations throughout the competition, while his charges have kept their cool at key moments, a quality most in evidence in the quarter-final shootout win over Senegal and in the last 20 minutes of the 2-0 semi-final defeat of Ghana, all of which augurs well for their hopes in the final.
Egypt fans can take heart, however, from their side’s head-to-head record against the Cameroonians, whose last Africa Cup of Nations win against the Pharaohs came back in 2002. And in their two meetings in the final of the competition, which came in 1986 and 2008, the Egyptians triumphed on both occasions, just two of their record seven continental title wins, another stat that will give the North Africans heart. The rivalry between Sunday’s finalists is one of biggest in the history of the competition, with two big guns all set to face off for the tenth time on the AFCON stage.
FIFA Confederations Cup records
Cameroon and Egypt are both vying for a third Confederations Cup appearance. The Pharaohs lined up in the 1999 and 2009 competitions, while the Indomitable Lions graced the tournament in 2001 and 2003. The Cameroonians reached the final on the second of those occasions, losing to France 1-0 after extra time at the end of a competition marked by the tragic death of their midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe in the semi-finals.
3 – the number of consecutive Africa Cup of Nations competitions Egypt missed prior to this one (in 2012, 2013 and 2015), a sequence that came after three consecutive tournament wins for the Pharaohs, in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
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