THE DAY REPLAYED* – *Egypt, the most successful team in the history of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, had not let in a single goal at Gabon 2017 before taking on surprise packages Burkina Faso in the last four. Despite eventually conceding in an intense, suspenseful encounter, the Pharaohs emerged victorious on penalties and advanced to yet another continental final.
FIFA.com reviews the first of two semi-finals on the agenda this week in Gabon.
The day’s result
*Burkina Faso 1-1 Egypt (Egypt won 4-3 on penalties)
Although they were faced with the daunting prospect of locking horns with a team that has been crowned African champions no fewer than seven times, Burkina Faso did not appear overawed by their task in Libreville, settling into a good rhythm early on against an Egyptian side that took time to make their presence felt in midfield, despite some sporadically inspiring play from Mahmoud Hassan.
The Burkinabe remained on top in the first half, however, laying siege to the Egyptian area via corners, free-kicks and incursions orchestrated by, in particular, Bertrand Traore, Aristide Bance and Prejuce Nakoulma*, *who appeared to be involved in all of his country’s positive moves.
Les Etalons continued to push in the second period, but they were often hampered by poor final balls. Egypt’s simple yet effective tactics thus far in the competition involved holding firm in defence and snatching a crucial goal, and this game appeared to be no different, as Mohamed Salah curled home the opener with aplomb on 67 minutes. But their opposition had not read the script, and Bance equalised six minutes later, controlling the ball on his chest and firing home an eye-catching volley to take the match into extra time.
During the additional 30 minutes, fans at the Stade de l'Amitie were treated to more of the same: the outsiders again tried to find a way through Egypt’s stingy defence, while Mohamed Salah came close to winning it for the former champions. Tiredness began to set in, and the 22 players resigned themselves to a penalty shoot-out. In the end, Egypt’s experience proved decisive from the spot as well, and they march on to the final.
24 – The age difference between Essam El Hadary and Herve Koffi. The veteran Egypt goalkeeper, 44, has already lifted the Cup of Nations four times during his career, while the 20-year-old Burkina Faso custodian was making his tournament debut at Gabon 2017.
The words“In my entire career, I’ve never seen players play for the jersey as much as these young Egyptians do,” Egypt coachHector Cuper.
Second semi-final*Thursday 2 February
*Cameroon-Ghana (20.00, local time)
The winners of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 will represent the continent at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.