Hassan: I'll keep on playing
The 34-year-old Al Ahly midfielder was without doubt the star attraction in his team's 3-1 victory over hard-fighting Cameroon on Monday to set a new Egyptian and African benchmark.
His milestone game started badly when he gifted the Indomitable Lions a 26th minute lead by heading into his own net. But he bounced back with two goals at the right end of the pitch and shoot the defending champions to a semi-final date with Algeria back in Benguela on Thursday.
Even after reaching this individual milestone, Hassan remained modest and said victory for the team was a lot more important. "I'm very happy with this milestone. I feel I still have a few more competitions in me. I want to continue playing for as long as I feel I am fit," said Hassan, sporting a red Egypt jersey that proudly proclaimed the magical number '170'. "But I'm even happier that the team won the game. Egyptian people only care about the national team's results, which are more important than any personal glories."
Ahmed Hassan beat the previous record of compatriot Hossam Hassan, whose committment was hailed by the Egypt skipper. "I learnt a lot from Hossam, he set an example for all players to follow. His will and determination were exceptional," said Ahmed Hassan, now the world's third most-capped footballer.
Making records has been very much a part of Hassan's distinguished career. He is part of the team who have compiled a Nations Cup all-time unbeaten run of 17 matches and ultimate victory on Sunday would make the diminutive midfielder the first player in the history of the competition to lift the trophy three times in a row.
Egypt would also become the first country to win the Nations Cup three times on the trot. It would also be their seventh Nations Cup title overall. "We're here in Angola to retain our title and we are still very much on course to doing just that. We would be the first team in Africa to win three times in a row," he said.
"We have also not lost for 17 games and I would win the trophy for the fourth time (having previously won in 1998, 2006 and 2008)," he went on. "Personally, no player has done this in Egyptian history."
Victory in Angola would also make up in part for Egypt's failure to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. "We wanted to be at the World Cup, but it did not happen. Football can't give you everything. Our supporters are a bit angry that we failed to qualify and success in Angola will make them a bit happier."
But standing between Hassan and Egypt for a place in Sunday's final are no other team than bitter regional rivals Algeria, who pipped the Pharaohs 1-0 in a most acrimonious play-off in November to qualify for South Africa 2010.