Egypt Hopeful Of Winning Eighth Continental Crown In Cameroon With Salah

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When Mohamed Salah leads Egypt into the Africa Cup of Nations next month, The Pharaohs will be striving for a record-lengthening eighth continental crown.

It is quite an astonishing record, with three of those seven titles coming consecutively during a historic and fanciful four-year period.

Beating all that came before them, Egypt won three consecutive AFCONs against all the odds and, as we look ahead to the 2021 edition in Cameroon, Sportsmail takes you through how the North African country achieved sustained success beyond their wildest dreams.

The year Egypt hosted the competition brought about a unique opportunity for a largely unknown group of players.

Out of the 23-man squad, only three played outside of their homeland, one of which was Tottenham Hotspur forward Mido, who was undoubtedly his country’s star man heading into the competition.

Besiktas midfielder Ahmed Hassan – who would go on to be Egypt’s record-caps holder with an astonishing 184 appearances for his country – was also in the squad, as was striker Amr Zaki who was two years away from a loan move to Wigan.

Both Mido and Hassan were on the score-sheet in the opening game of the competition – a 3-0 win against Libya – before a draw versus Morocco and impressive victory over the Ivory Coast meant the hosts finished top of Group A.

Egypt then dominated their quarter-final, beating DR Congo 4-1 in Cairo before a Zaki goal nine minutes from time sent them to the final via a 2-1 triumph over a Senegal side who had reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup four years previously.

But this game was not without controversy among the home nation.

Star player Mido was engulfed in a row with coach Hassan Shehata, after being substituted for match-winner Zaki. The pair made up a day later, but the Spurs striker was handed a six-month ban from playing for his country and would miss the tournament showpiece three days later.

In the final, in front of 80,000 people at the Cairo International Stadium, laid in wait Ivory Coast once again, the favourites for the tournament.

With captain Didier Drogba, Yaya and Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Arouna Kone among the international stars representing The Elephants, the visitors were the favourites amid a fever-pitch atmosphere in the Egyptian capital.

The contest, in the end, was a bit of a damp squib, ending goalless. Cue Egypt keeper Essam El Hadary’s time to shine, saving first up from Drogba and then from Nice winger Bakari Kone.

Ultimately, it was Mohamed Aboutrika who slotted home the winning penalty, triggering jubilant scenes across the country.

It was Egypt’s fifth triumph. Little did anyone know, however, that this was just the start.

Two years later, the tournament was held in Ghana and defending champions Egypt were drawn in a group with Cameroon, Zambia and Sudan.

The Pharaohs were this time without Mido – absent through injury – as well as Tottenham winger Hossam Ghaly, as he focused on a loan spell at Derby.

However, 12 of the players who were part of the 2006 squad were involved this time round, including Player of the ’06 Tournament Ahmed Hassan, who was playing in a record-equalling seventh tournament.

Despite a Samuel Eto’o double, Egypt beat Cameroon in their tournament opener by four goals to two, while a 3-0 win against Sudan paved their passage to the quarter-finals again, irrespective of a 1-1 draw against Zambia in their final group game.

In the last eight, they defeated Angola 2-1 in Kumasi, while the semi-finals triggered a rematch of the 2006 final against the Ivory Coast.

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