African Nations Cup: Egypt defends title!

EGYPT 1, CAMEROON 0

If you want a play-by-play recap – visit Greg Lalas’ live-blog over at the New York Times blog “GOAL”. It was a tight one to the very end, but Mohamed Aboutraika found an opening thanks to a scrum in Cameroon’s box to slot one past Kameni and put Cameroon on the backtrack. The biggest surprise of the game was Samuel Eto’o being left alone up front as Egypt effectively closed down the wings and no real game was being created in the middle. Eto’o was kept quiet tactically and Egypt created several chances on the counter-attack. Mohamed Zidan was the unsung hero for the Pharaohs – doing all the work in the box before he was able to poke it Aboutraika who was left open amidst all the confusion. Zidan’s work throughout the game created several chances for Egypt. It was veteran centreback Rigobert Song that helped Zidan create that chance as Song – former Liverpool defender – attempted a clearance not once, but twice!, and failed to get it out. Zidan came rushing in, tangled Song up, and found Aboutraika open on the near flank. Song had an event in the 70th minute that was just as embarassing, but it didn’t lead to much. Either way, the signs were there…and Egypt pounced.

Throughout, Egypt opted for the team approach – no real stars, just concerted, effective play. Mohamed Zidan – their biggest scoring threat – was kept to only 2 goals for the tournament but he created a hell of a lot more. Hosny Abd Rabo, Mohamed Aboutreika, and Amr Zaky all tied for second on the African Nations Cup scoring leaderboard with 4. Ghana took third place with a 4-2 win over the Ivory Coast. One of Steve Goff’s loyal Soccer Insider reader’s was in Cairo for the game viewing and festivities afterward – read his account here.

It is Egypt’s 6th African Nations Cup title and the first to repeat since Cameroon in 2000/2002 (before that, there wasn’t a repeat since Ghana in 1963/1965). With the win, the Pharaohs will fill the CAF slot at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa along with Italy (2006 World Cup champ), South Africa (HOST), the United States (Gold Cup champ), Iraq (Asian Cup winner), and Brazil (2007 Copa America winner). There are two slot left to be filled – the winner of the 2008 EURO Championship and the 2008 OFC Nations Cup both which will take place soon.

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