The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, which generally failed to capture the imagination of most fans, wound up in Gabon last night with the Lions of Cameroon winning the championship after dispatching ageing Pharaohs of Egypt.
In Malawi, the Flames must be quaking in their boots as the newly-crowned African champions are in their group B of the qualifiers for the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.
Yesterday, the Lions came from behind to claim their fifth Afcon championship and with it, an equivalent of K2.8 billion ($4 million) cash prize, after preying on the Esam El-Hadary-led Egypt at the 40,000-seater Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.
The Pharaohs went into the final chasing a record eighth title but it was not to be. The Egyptians could not just cope with the pace and energy of the lions.
The loss must have surely closed the chapter on the 44-year-old El-Hadary—twice the age of his Cameroonian opposite number Fabrice Onoa—who became the oldest player to grace the Afcon finals.
Yet all had looked rosy for Egypt as they went in front in the 21st minute. Arsenal midfield pit-bull, Mohamed Elneny, started an attacking move before, after some intelligent runs on and off the ball, finished it off with a terrific rising bullet which sneaked inside the near post of Onoa’s goal.
Things turned from bad to worse for Cameroon as they lost influential defender Teikeu to a groin injury.
In his place came Nicholas Nkolou, who after the first-half had ended 1-0 in favour of the Egyptians, justified his presence by heading in the equaliser in the 59th minute after connecting a ball whipped from the left wing.
Egypt, who had started the game strongly, lost steam in the late stages of the game.
Eventually, Cameroon Coach, Hugo Boss, pulled out Ndip Tambe for Vincent Aboubakar, who finally grabbed the winner in the 89th minute.
Aboubakar chested a long ball, flicked it past two Egyptian defenders before burying the ball into the net. Pharaohs were down and out.
It was a remarkable outing for the Belgian Boss, whose side prior to the finals, was hit by the withdrawal of star players such as Joel Matip and Idrissa Kameni.
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