By Ilyas Choudry, MMNS
Ghana, 20 January – 10 February: Egypt Coach Hassan Shehata praised his side for successfully defending their Africa Cup of Nations title despite being unfancied to win in west Africa. â€œGhana was always going to be difficult with so many strong teams (south of the Sahara), but we did well,â€ he said.
The Pharaohsâ€™ secured a record-breaking sixth title with a 1-0 win over Cameroon in the Accra final. â€œWe tried to take the game with good football, for Egypt and for the fans, and it proved enough to win,â€ he added.
Earlier host Ghana beat Ivory Coast 4-2 to get the third position.
The victory of Egypt meant Shehata joins an exclusive club of two coaches who have won back-to-back titles. The defending champions ensured the win when Mohamed Zidan forced an error from Cameroon captain Rigobert Song to play in Mohamed Aboutrika for the only goal of the game.
And Aboutrika said he hoped they could take their dominance into the build up towards the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. â€œWe are delighted to win. Itâ€™s a great achievement,â€ said the Al Ahly star.
â€œIt is a great feeling to score for the country, but itâ€™s not about me scoring goals but itâ€™s about all the players and the 80 million people supporting us back home.
â€œItâ€™s an amazing feeling to win the tournament away from home,â€ said Aboutrika.
â€œItâ€™s even better to win it two times in a row.â€
After beating Cameroon in their opening group game, Shehataâ€™s men recorded victories over Sudan, Angola and then Ivory Coast in the semi-finals.
The only minor blemish on an otherwise perfect passage to the continental trophy was the 1-1 draw with Zambia. Egypt has added this 2008 trophy to their wins in 1957, 1959, 1986 (on penalties against Cameroon), 1998 and 2006.
Ahmed Hassan was the engine of the Egyptian midfield and key in setting the pace of the Pharaohsâ€™ game. Cameroon defender Bill Tchato was full of praise for Egypt. â€œWe showed a lot of heart but congratulations to Egypt. We came up against a team that deserved to win,â€ he said.
â€œIt is no surprise that they were champions of Africa two years ago.â€
Patrick Mboma, Cameroonâ€™s all-time top goalscorer who led the team to Nations Cup victories in 2000 and 2002, said Egyptâ€™s team spirit shone through. â€œItâ€™s tremendous that we reached the final with small preparations and the late appointment of a coach, but Egypt is the best football team in Africa today,â€ said Mboma.
â€œThey have a team based on local players, so they know each other very well.â€
Aboutrikaâ€™s goal in the final was the 99th of the tournament, which produced more goals than any other Nations Cup.
Cameroon: Kameni, Tchato, Song, Atouba, Emana (Idrissou 56), Song Billong (Binya 16), Mbia, Epalle (Mâ€™Bami 65), Geremi, Nkong, Etoâ€™o.
Subs Not Used: Hamidou, Mbarga, Angbwa, Essola, Makoun, Nâ€™Guemo, Tomou, Job.
Booked: Atouba, Idrissou.
Egypt: El Hadari, Mohamed, Hany Said, Gomaa, Moawad, Fathi, Hassan, Abd Rabou, Aboutriaka (Ibrahim Said 89), Moteab (Zidan 60), Zaki (Shawky 84).
Subs Not Used: Abdel Monssef, Sobhy, El Saeed, Fathallah, Gamal, Mostafa, Shaaban, El Mohamady, Fadl.
Goals: Aboutriaka 77.
Ref: Coffi Codja (Benin)