Egypt beat Cameroon 3-1 in extra-time, winning a record 17 Africa Cup of Nations matches on the trot, and setting themselves up for a record seventh title and record three trophies in a row.
The Pharaoh’s captain Ahmed Hassan made his 170th appearance for the team, which is also an African record, and scored two goals plus an earlier own goal after he skimmed a Cameroon corner into the net with his head. He later levelled the score from 25m.
Cameroon let the Egyptians slide one in during extra-time from a sloppy back-pass, before Hassan struck the winner with an extra-time free-kick that bounced off the top bar and looked not to have crossed the line.
Four-time Cup winners Cameroon played some of the best soccer of their tournament, forcing Egypt to concede several early corners, but early in the second half, their defence started looking porous in the face of a wave of Egyptian attacks. They then recovered and played out the half with Cameroon rushing forward in search of a second goal.
In the later quarter-final, Nigeria beat an unlucky Zambia 5-4 on penalties after they drew 0-0 in a fiercely contested match in extra-time. Zambia nearly went ahead in the 66th minute when a shot off a corner kick was cleared off the line. The best chance for Zambia came in the final minute of normal time when a corner was headed just over the bar of Nigeria’s goal.
Three African 2010 World Cup qualifiers are now in the running for the title – Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria. Nigeria play Ghana in the semis, and the Egyptians meet Algeria. They lost out to their north African rivals in a World Cup play-off match in Sudan in November, which saw the Algerians progress to South Africa, and days of rioting in both Cairo and Algiers.
Photo: Mahmoud Fathallah of Egypt challenges Pierre Webo Kouamo of Cameroon during their African Nations Cup quarter-final soccer match at Ombaka stadium in Benguela January 25, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh