AFCON 2017: El-Hadary takes Egypt to the final

AFCON 2017: El-Hadary takes Egypt to the final
Burkina Faso dominated much of the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, but Egypt managed to secure its position in the final on penalty shoot-outs thanks to goalie Essam El-Hadary.
4 min read
02 Feb, 2017
Egypt is in the AFCON final thanks to its 44-year-old goalkeeper [AFP]

After its last minute victory over Morocco in the quarter-final, Egypt met Burkina Faso in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Stade d'Angondjé in Libreville, Gabon.

The Egyptian team was missing Mohamed El-Nenny from Arsenal and Marwan Mohsen, their regular forwards throughout the tournament.

The match kicked off with several dangerous chances and El-Hadary stretched three times to save Egypt for conceding, with The Pharaohs looking unfocused.

Burkina Faso dominated the game until the 16th minute, and Trezeguet tried a screamer in order to surprise the Burkinabe goalie, Koffi, but it went out. This attempt had a good impact on The Pharaohs who immediately tried to sting the Stellaions through Mahmoud Kahraba.

Burkina Faso’s star, Aristide Bance, tried an overhead kick, but it went way off. The Burkinabe big man had a hard time confronting the Egyptian defence, who was well coordinated.

As the first half continued Egypt followed Cúper’s plan. The same pattern the Argentinean implemented along the whole tournament - “to kill the game” and to bite in the right moment.

Kahraba was Egypt’s main man.  Ittihad’s magician was all over the place trying to find the Burkinabe goalie unprepared.

The first half ended with a little cosmetic advantage for Burkina Faso, but Egypt’s solid defence insured the half ended 0-0.

The second half was opened exactly like the first. Burkina Faso pressured Egypt hard and El-Hadary added a few more saves to his statistics.

On the 56th minute Naklouma passed by three Egyptian defenders and released a shot from a difficult angle. El-Hadary, again, was at the right place in the right time. Remember this phrase. It will become the bon-ton of this evening.

Ten minutes later Egypt finally worked their magic. A counter attack found Kahraba in the middle of the box, which set Salah a short past back, and Salah bombed the high right corner and the Egyptian ran in insanity. 1-0 to The Pharaohs!

On the 74th minute Bance finally arrived in the semi-final. A counter attack by Burkina Faso found the ASEC Mimosas striker, who stopped the ball on his chest in style and rocked the back of El-Hadary’s net. The Ivorian-born Burkina Faso giant made it 1-1. What a game.

This goal was the first Egypt has conceded in the whole tournament.

After the goal Burkina Faso took over the match. Egypt barely went out to attack, and Cúper decided to throw in Stoke City wonder kid Ramadan Sobhi into the mix, who added some speed and flair to Egypt attacking attempts.

On the last attack of the match Burkina Faso tested El-Hadary again and again but the veteran goalkeeper was ready and saved every one. The game went in to extra time.

The extra time did not produce any decision for this titans’ battle and the game went to penalties. It was the signal that Essam El-Hadary’s time had come.

Abdallah Al-Said missed the first penalty for Egypt as hit the post. The stress reached new levels on The Pharaohs’ bench. On the other side, Alian Traore scored the first for Burkina Faso.

Ramadan Sobhi netted a super important Paneka kick in, which equalized and brought Egypt its confidence back. Diawara was extremely cool and netted easily for the Burkinabes. 2-1.

Ahmed Hegazi made it  2-2. Yago took Burkina Faso to a 3-2 lead. Then, Mohamed Salah, Egypt and Roma’s star scored a tight shot and it was 3-3. Koffi, Burkina Faso’s goalie came up to kick the decisive shot. If he scores Burkina Faso are in the final. If he misses, the shootout continues.

He ran, kicked and El-Hadary stopped him. Unbelievably Egypt were back.

Amr Warda scored and made it 4-3 to Egypt. Burkina Faso’s and Ajax forward, Bertrand Traore, got his test in front of El-Hadary, but the veteran goalkeeper stopped his shot too, and that was it.

Egypt is in the AFCON final thanks to a 44-year-old goalkeeper. Not Salah who plays in Italy, and not Kahraba who stars in Saudi Arabia. An old goalkeeper who plays for a small team, that it was doubted that he will join the national team for this tournament.

The Egyptian journey to the final in Gabon wasn’t very impressive, but thanks to one man it became magical. What a night in Libreville. Egypt will play the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

All in all, one must admit that Burkina Faso was better, but this is football, and this is why it isn’t over until it’s over.

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here