Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Egypt retain the Africa Cup of Nations

CHAMPIONS Mohamed Aboutraika scored the only goal against Cameroon in the final to give the Pharaohs their record sixth title and bring joy to the streets of Cairo



Egypt retained their Africa Cup of Nations crown on Sunday when Mohamed Aboutraika scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Cameroon which also delivered a record sixth title.

The defending champions ensured they held on to the trophy when, after a slick passing movement, Aboutraika struck in the 77th minute for a deserved success.

The result was the Pharoahs' final act in a hugely impressive campaign that saw them build on the defeat of Cameroon in their opening group game to record victories over Sudan, Tunisia and then Ivory Coast in the semi-finals.

Egypt were adding the trophy to their wins in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998 and 2006, with coach Hassan Shehata becoming only the second coach to win back-to-back titles.

Cameroon were without their suspended defender Andre Bikey, but Alexandre Song, stretchered off in the semi-final win over Ghana, was on the pitch.

However, the Arsenal defender only lasted a quarter of an hour, limping off dejectedly with Benfica's Gilles Binya taking his place.

Before Song's exit, Egypt's Hosny Abd Rabou had hit a 30m free kick which flew over the Cameroon defense before goalkeeper Carlos Kameni had to look sharp to deny Emad Moteab's angled shot.

Egypt skipper Ahmed Hassan then did well to stick his foot out to deflect Joel Epaule's effort.

Pharoahs' keeper Essam al-Hadary, man of the match against Ivory Coast, was up to the job of denying a 30m freekick special from Geremi before Kameni produced an acrobatic dive to keep out Moteab's dangerous strike.

Eto'o, the competition's all time top scorer, had the Egyptians scampering around on the hour mark with a lightning run down the left.

Cameroon coach Otto Pfister then introduced striker Mohamadou Idrissou for a midfielder, Achille Emana, as he sought the keys to unlock the Egyptians, with Shehata swapping Moteab for Hamburg striker Mohamed Zidan.

Zidan scored twice in Egypt's win over Cameroon earlier in the tournament and he was instrumental in putting them into a 77nd minute lead.

He robbed the tiring Rigobert Song and his slide rule pass from the left found Aboutraika who calmly struck low past Kameni.

That was the Al Ahly midfielder's fourth goal and it set up a fraught final quarter of an hour as Cameroon frantically tried to get back into the match, but the defending champions held on to take the continental cup back to Cairo.

In the Egyptian capital, the victory brought joy and relief.

"Finally something joyous happens to us," said Mohammed Said, sporting an Egyptian flag instead of his traditional galabaya robe. "With the government we have everything is sad, the prices, the boats sink and trains crash, this is the only thing that gives us joy."

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