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Egypt to give Cameroon stiff Nations Cup test

© Reuters 2002

By Brian Homewood

BAMAKO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Cameroon and Egypt, who have won seven African Nations Cup titles between them, clash in the quarter-finals on Monday with the Pharaohs attempting to regain their place amongst the elite of African football.

Defending champions Cameroon, who also have their eye on June's World Cup in Korea and Japan, won their three first round games without conceding a goal but are likely to face a much stiffer test in the southern town of Sikasso.

Egypt, whose coach admits are no longer one of the major powers in African football, are seeking consolation after their failure to qualify for the World Cup, when they lost out to Senegal.

Their fortunes have taken a dramatic dive since they won the Nations Cup in Burkina Faso four years ago.

The Pharaohs lost 5-1 to arch-rivals Saudi Arabia at the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico, were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Nations Cup two years ago and will now miss out on the World Cup.

Egypt's veteran coach Mahmoud Al Gohari, the only man to have won the Nations Cup as player and coach, admits that his opponents the Indomitable Lions are hot favourites.

"It's a very tough game," said the former army captain, who is in his fourth and final stint as Egypt coach and will resign after the tournament.

"Cameroon are a very strong team, they won their group playing at only 50 percent capacity," added Al Gohari, who led Egypt to the title four years ago.

"Cameroon are several steps ahead of us, they have prepared well, they are more professional and a lot of their players have come straight from the French league, they have not been out of action."

Nigeria or Cameroon?
"Our professional league ended on December 20, we have had some injury problems but our players are clever and have a good mentality and if we get our tactics right we have a chance," he said.

"But, honestly, I think Nigeria and Cameroon are the real contenders for the title."

Cameroon have not played as impressively as their results suggest - they had let-offs against both Ivory Coast and Togo before winning - but their second-half performance against Togo, when they scored three goals, has boosted their confidence.

"We want to keep going, to win every game because we want to keep the trophy," said captain Rigobert Song.

"Today, we are ready to face any team."

The winners will play Senegal or the Democratic Republic of Congo in Thursday's semifinal in Bamako. Senegal's Lions face the Simbas in Bamako's Modibo Keita stadium on Monday evening.

Senegal, who like Cameroon are World Cup-bound, topped group D in the first round without conceding a goal but only scored twice, on both occasions in the final 10 minutes of the game.

The Congolese, after a poor start when they failed to score in their first two games, came to life in their final group game when they beat Ivory Coast 3-1.

Reports provided by

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