THE FINAL: EGYPT VS GHANA

1 Feb

Source: Getty images

The 2010 Africa Cup of Nations got off to a shocking start when on the eve of the tournament the Togolese contingency was attacked while making their way to their base in Cabinda. A lesser nation may have crumbled and had the tournament cancelled or redirected to a back up venue, but Angola needed this for both the economy and the people. The host nation rallied and  sought to put things right. Angola have delivered, over the last 3 weeks and we have witnessed nothing short of a festival of fantastic African football.

Truth be told, that sounds a bit like the story of one of today’s contenders. Egypt saw heart-break, losing out on a place in the summer’s World Cup by defeat to Algeria in November. The Pharaohs rallied and sought to put things right. They needed this to make up for their failure. And over the last 3 weeks Egypt have been nothing short of clinical in achieving the goal they set for themselves: to win the Africa Cup of Nation for a third time running. Victory today would cement Egypt’s place in history as the first team to do so, and in the form they’re in would you bet against them? Egypt come into the match up as the only team with a 100% win record and they’ve swept aside all comers. They have scored, defended and passed their way into the final, but now comes the true test of character. Can Egypt hold their nerve?

In Egypt’s way, the valiant and youthful Ghana side, who have had to make do with out seasoned veterans Mensah, Appiah, Paintsil and Essien. Ghana have played one game less due to Togo’s submission from the tournament, losing their opening game to Cote D’Ivoire. They haven’t looked back since and have played a good mixture of tactics that has seen the Black Stars put themselves in a wonderful position. The history books already show one fine stat; Egypt have never beaten Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations. Can Ghana do it again and shut the Pharaohs out?

The game got off to a slow and cagey start with both teams cautious of the occasion. The atmosphere in the impressive 11th of November Stadium was bubbling as the fans began pouring in as the game progressed. The heat was intense and matched the feel on the pitch as Egypt tried to find some rhythm and get into their revered passing game. Ghana stood tall and showed the Egyptians much deserved respect, but at no point feared the Pharaohs. The youth of the Black Stars shone through as they hunted down every ball and gave the Egyptians little time on the ball. Ghana’s confidence grew and spread to all corners of the stadium. The crowd’s “Ola” calls could be heard with increasing fervour as Ghana started to take the upper hand, grabbing more and more possession.  The Pharaohs were rattled. They usually have some swagger about their play, but the combination of a well marshalled Ghanaian side and the anxiety generated by their foot-in-the-door, seemed too much for Egypt. Neither side created much in the first half but Ghana definitely came out on top.

(Ghana - Source: Getty images)

In the second half, Ghana came out with more purpose. The first half seemed to have been a flattering reciprocation of the Pharaoh’s tactics which had worked in Ghana’s favour. Now they looked to score. Gyan was isolated in the first half and kept out easily by Gomma’s  experience not to mention the overall strong back four. The Ghanaian midfield now got closer to Gyan and probed down the flanks to try release the Stade Rennais striker. At last the game began to open up. Zidan at the other end flashed a shot wide before Gyan really tested Egypt’s El Hadary. He first had a dip from a free kick just clearing the bar, then sent a long-range effort just wide. El Hadary had each attempt covered, but his nervous scramble to get to the efforts told you he had to make sure.

Egypt have had the luxury of keeping the same side fit and starting every match without changes. On 70 minutes they brought on the tournament’s tops scorer, Gedo, who has scored in each match after coming off the bench. The game had a nice ebb and flow about it now, with both teams seeking out the winner. Tackles flew in and the yellow cards were building up. After 80 minutes, Ghana made their own twist, bringing off Gyan for the U-20 World Cup’s top scorer, Adiyiah. Could one of the strikers be the difference. The question was answered. On 84 minutes Egypt stole the ball near the half way a started a break down the left. Gedo found some space then picked Zidan out near the edge of the box. Zidan played a brilliant one touch pass back into Gedo’s path. Gedo readjusted superbly, bringing the ball onto his “weaker” right foot. In space he curled a beauty into the side of the goal. Kingson had no chance. Typical Egyptian style had finally broken down the resilient Black Stars and the prospect of extra time faded into obscurity. 1 – 0

Ghana kept their heads up and launched strong attacks in search of the equalizer. They almost got their reward when a ball was swung in and narrowly missed by another substitute Addo. You had to wonder if Gyan would have made contact and looking at his reaction on the bench, you think he would. The Pharaohs held on and celebrated into the night as Egypt were deservedly crowned the Champions of Africa, at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.

Final Score: Egypt 1 – 0 Ghana

Man of the Match: it has to go to Zidan again I’m afraid. His touch to Gedo for the winner was sublime and he was the only Egyptian who looked threatening when Ghana were in the ascendency.

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