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CAN 2022: Egypt eliminates Cameroon, host country, and climbs to the final

In the early morning, when the birds began to chirp, Cameroon got ready for its gala evening. Traders have unfolded the most beautiful tunics of the Lions on the walls of the capital; the dealers jostle to sell the “mufflers” (this is what we call surgical masks) or the vuvuzelas in the colors of the country; the gargotières have already prepared the skewers and the booze. The green, red and yellow make-up will soon dye the cheeks of a people wrapped up – like a single being – in the national flag, their most precious possession. So the party can begin.

Thursday, February 3, at 8 p.m., for the last semi-final of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), the Indomitable Lions receive a seven-star host at the Olembé stadium in Yaoundé: Egypt. At the end of extra time and after a calamitous penalty shootout for the Lions (0-0; 1-3 on pens), it was finally Egypt who would meet Senegal in the final of the tournament.

Read also CAN 2022: Senegal goes to the final for the second time in a row

For the fiftieth match of the CAN, Cameroon returned to the Olembé stadium, bereaved since the stampede which had left eight dead and around forty injured shortly before the eighth between Cameroon and the Comoros (2-1), on January 24. Faced with this tragedy, the African Football Confederation (CAF) had decided to suspend this arena until the authorities had investigated and further secured access to the site. On Friday, they submitted their report and decided on a series of measures to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.

Isn’t it too early to play again in a bruised stadium? ” A little “recognizes a victim, met a few days ago in a hospital and who wishes to remain anonymous “so as not to have any problem”. ” What is done is done. We have to go to Olembé because it’s bigger and there will be a lot of people. But having closed the stadium for several days shows that we were distressed.explains this victim.

Read also CAN 2022: in Yaoundé, in front of the Olembé stadium, “people fell, unconscious, and some died”

“Coming back here does not mean that we forget [les morts], we cannot forget them; we have to live with”, assures Amer Kmer. This 49-year-old supporter, dressed in the colors of Cameroon, has been blowing, like a little boy, on his trumpet since his arrival in the stands at 4:43 p.m. “We play at home. It’s our CAN, our stadiums, our hotels, it’s our Cup “he says, brandishing a replica of the World Cup trophy. “We will win 2-0”prophesies without hesitation Marie Cnopaback, 26 years old. Is defeat possible? The young woman laughs when she hears this question: “I’m here to accompany the Lions in the final. »

A Cameroonian first half

Cameroon-Egypt. It is a rivalry between the two most successful nations on the continent. A remake, too, of the CAN 2017 final. At that time, The Lions had snatched, to the great despair of Mohamed Salah, their fifth star at the 88and minute thanks to Vincent Aboubakar, current top scorer of the tournament (six achievements). At the stadium, far from being full yet, the excitement is palpable. The match hasn’t started but the sound of the vuvuzelas is already dizzying. And when the crowd begins to sing The rallying songthe Cameroonian anthem seems to lift Olembé.

Great start for the Lions: desire, a lot of desire. From the first minutes, they tame the ball to never let go of it at halftime. All in speed, players find themselves easily and look for a fault in this Egyptian white wall. With each ride, the public explodes and the eardrums do not resist for long. Karl Toko-Ekambi is twirling; Michael Ngadeu is not far from opening the scoring: his header crashes into the corner of the crossbar (18and).

The lions throw themselves on each ball, press to recover the leather; they are untenable, seeking to asphyxiate their opponent, the first big piece of this CAN. Apart from Burkina in the opening match (2-1), Cameroon only faced “small nations” such as Ethiopia (4-1), Cape Verde (1-1), Comorres and Gambia (0-2). Unlike Egypt, which fought against Nigeria (1-0 defeat) and eliminated Côte d’Ivoire (on penalties) and Morocco (2-1).

For the moment, there is only one team on the ground: the host country of the CAN. Cameroon controls the duel without panicking. The Pharaohs can’t – yet – exist, chain passes or find their guide, Mohamed Salah, desperately alone in attack and not very sparkling. But they remain solid in defense.

Very Clumsy Lions

In the second half, the Cameroonian storm seemed to be over: the Egyptians finally managed to find each other. The match is rebalancing on this complicated lawn, it is even getting closer. The 90and The minute approaches and the Portuguese coach of Egypt, Carlos Queiroz, is sent off, nervous, as he was in the previous round against Morocco, a match which ended in a general fight in the locker room. End of regulation time. Extensions. The third in a row for Egypt.

This semi-final is far from being spectacular and fatigue is setting in the players’ legs. The Lions and the Pharaohs continue to believe in it: Egypt could have scored (103and118and), Cameroon too (106and). Everything can change, one way or the other. We run in slow motion: it’s time to go to the penalty shootout, the second for Egypt. May luck decide between the two rivals.

Luck ? Rather clumsiness. This session is inexplicable and calamitous: Gabaski, goalkeeper number 2 – already strong against Côte d’Ivoire – stops two Cameroonian penalties. Then Clinton Njie, the third shooter, sends the ball into the black sky of Yaoundé. Olembé goes out, stunned, lost, sad. The Lions cracked, when they had dominated the game. Did they expect to go to penalties? Cameroon is eliminated from its CAN in the semi-finals. His home. Like in 1972.

Egypt will therefore meet Senegal in the final on Sunday 6 February. Mohamed Salah against Sadio Manié, his Liverpool teammate. Magic.

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