Egypt, Nigeria set up showdowns
© AFP

Day 16 - Egypt and Nigeria added their names to the list of CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finalists after winning nail-biting matches on Monday. Egypt beat Cameroon 3-1 after extra time in Benguela, while Nigeria needed to be perfect on penalties to overcome Zambia after a goalless stalemate in Lubango.

Egypt’s march of dominance at the Nations Cup continued as the team’s record unbeaten run at the event now stretches to 17 matches, and Ahmed Hassan celebrated his Egyptian record 170th international appearance by scoring twice in the victory. Unlike their two wins over the Indomitable Lions at the 2008 tournament in Ghana, this one went into extra time, but the Pharaohs advance to continue on their quest for a third continental trophy on the trot.

In the other quarter-final, unheralded Zambia matched two-time champions Nigeria stride for stride but neither team was able to score after two hours of football. It all came down to a dramatic penalty shootout with goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s diving save from young full-back Thomas Nyirenda seeing Nigeria to their fifth semi-final in the last six Cup of Nations.

Both winners now face regional rivals as Egypt must take on Algeria, the team that denied them a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Thursday in Benguela, while Nigeria meet neighbours Ghana the same day in Luanda.

Results
Egypt 3-1 Cameroon a.e.t. (Hassan 37’, 95’, Nagui 92’; Emana 26’)
Zambia 0-0 Nigeria a.e.t., Nigeria won 5-4 on PKs

Goal of the day
Egypt 2-1 Cameroon , Mohamed Nagui (92’)
Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagui has come on as a substitute throughout this Nations Cup and contributed to the success of the Egyptians with vital strikes. His goal just into the start of extra time against many people’s pre-tournament favourites was symbolic of the deep talent at the disposal of Egypt as well as the error-ridden way the match was headed. Nagui profited from a shallow back pass by right back Geremi Njitap to his goalkeeper Carlos Idriss Kameni, sliding in to steal the ball and steer it into the net for the go-ahead goal. The two teams had battled through a niggly encounter and were still even, but the poacher's goal proved the turning point.

Memorable Moments
Jersey No. 170
A landmark day for Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan looked at one stage to be turning into a nightmare as the diminutive midfielder got a touch to, but failed to stop, an in-swinging corner from Achille Emana from bulging his net. It was the goal that gave Cameroon the lead as Hassan marked his 170th international appearance, which is also an African record. The veteran stormed about the pitch for the next 11 minutes before producing a swerving 35-metre shot that caught out Kameni and gave Egypt an equaliser. Cue the celebrations, as Hassan waved a jersey with the figure ‘170’ on both the front and back in a mixture of pride and relief.

Third goal unlucky
Samuel Eto’o refused to get drawn into blaming the referees after Egypt were given a late third goal from a free-kick that many questioned. It could have turned into a tale of woe from Cameroon after Hassan’s 95th-minute strike put the result beyond their reach, but the Indomitable Lions captain accepted his side were outdone by a better team on the day. “Mistakes are part of the game, there is never a match in which there are no mistakes by the referee or the players,” said the three-time African Footballer of the Year afterwards.

Goalkeeper duel
With Nigeria ahead 4-3 in the penalty shootout, Zambia net-minder Kennedy Mweene stepped up to try and even the score against his opposite number Vincent Enyeama. Mweene is a regular penalty taker in the South African league for his club Free State Stars and showed his acumen with a competent conversion. But Nigeria had one kick left to go to win the game. And amazingly enough, the roles were reversed as Enyeama had the responsibility of the fifth kick from the Super Eagles. The hero who had already saved a kick successfully sent Mweene the wrong way and Nigeria to the semi-finals.

A cruel fate
Nigeria were reduced to 10 men when Onyekachi Apam was sent off in the 112th minute, but even before then Zambia had most of the run of play. Particularly in the second half, the Chipolopolo threatened the Super Eagles goal far more than the other way around. So how cruel was it then to watch the brave underdogs fall short in penalty kicks as their inspirational young coach Hervé Renard went about the pitch trying to comfort his promising team? Nyirenda, whose penalty was solid but the only unsuccessful one on the night, was just one of the stricken players.

The stat
16 – The number of years since Nigeria last won the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Their last success was in the 1994 edition in Tunisia , the same year they made their debut in the FIFA World Cup finals.

What they said
"I still have a lot of thinking that I will have to do before we get to the World Cup finals. A lot of these youngsters in my team still have to prove themselves in the squad to go to South Africa .” Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen after their CAF Africa Cup of Nations exit.

“It was a really, really crazy game. Zambia played so well, and we had a difficult time breaking them down because they are technically and tactically very strong. They made it very hard for us.” Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

Next matches
Ghana - Nigeria (28 Jan. 16:00 GMT )
Algeria - Egypt (28 Jan. 19:30 GMT )

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