Egypt has always been a big threat to Cameroon. Can the Indomitable Lions upset the Pharaohs again like in 2017?
Cameroon’s crunch semi-final encounter against Egypt this Thursday at the Olembe Stadium is no doubt the fixture fans had been anticipating since the start of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. But this is no ordinary fixture for keen observers of African football.
The thrilling tie worthy of an Afcon final, between the continent’s most titled nations at the biennial tournament is a defining moment for both teams who do not only have their sight on the trophy but are also eager to settle old scores.
Since 1983 when they first met, rivalries between both heavyweight nations have piled up over the years. But Egypt has been the most convincing side having dominated in most of their encounters. They have produced some incredibly early success and notable impact. Out of 27 matches, the seven (7) time champions have won 15 and lost just six (6) times.
Cameroon may have claimed some important wins against their eternal rivals but their struggles have been visible over the years and their attempt to improve their figures have yielded little success.
But after a series of winless games, they broke the jinx after defeating Egypt in the final of the 2017 Afcon in Gabon. Cameroon may have won the title but victory over the Pharaohs was a huge statement and evidence of a glimmer of hope.
Their victory in 2017 is an achievement to build on. The team has previously been culpable of their downfall. Now is the time to make amends. And with Cameroon unbeaten on home soil for close to 20-years, there are chances they could emerge victorious at the end.
A first true test
Amongst the four semi-finalists in pursuit of a ticket to the final of this year’s Nations Cup, only Cameroon and Senegal are still unbeaten. The Stallions of Burkina Faso and record champions Egypt both lost their opening games but fought extremely hard in their next fixtures to reach the last four.
The Indomitable Lions have secured four wins from their five games but they all came against low-rank opponents on the continent including two tournament first-timers; Comoros and Gambia.
Burkina Faso whom they defeated 2-1 after a comeback win in their first game are ranked outside the top ten African teams (11). Ethiopia occupies the 40th spot, Cape Verde 13th, Comoros 38th and The Gambia 46th.
The clash against Egypt-ranked as the 6th best African team- is therefore the first true challenge of the Cameroon national team. Egypt who overcame a ropey start would certainly want to gain revenge for their defeat in 2017 by knocking out the host on home soil and edging towards a record-extending eight titles. Coach Antonio Conceicao and his boys are out to get rid of such plans and bridge the gap by winning a sixth title, one shy of the records.
If against its previously lowly-ranked opponents, the hosts were severely lacking in creativity and intensity, they must work hard to convince sceptics. Thursday’s semi-final also offers Cameroon a glaring opportunity to reach the final of the Afcon as host nation after previously failing when they first hosted in 1972.
The stage is set. Win and become the country’s modern heroes. But lose again to Egypt and the unthinkable will happen again.