Egypt crushed Ethiopia 4-0 in the maiden edition that was held in Sudan, courtesy of four goals from iconic striker Mohamed Diab Al-Attar on 2, 7, 68, and 89 minutes – setting a record that still stands as no one managed to match his goal tally in a final game. Al-Attar, better known as Diba, also won the top scorer award with five goals after netting a winner against Sudan (2-1) in the semi-final. The tournament included only three teams, as South Africa, the remaining founding member, was banned due to its apartheid policy.
The tournament, which was held in Egypt, switched its format from a knockout to a mini league. Egypt beat Ethiopia 4-0 in their opening game as Mahmoud Al-Gohari bagged a hat-trick on 29, 42 and 73 minutes and Mimi El Sherbini completed the rout in the 64th minute. In the final game, Essam Baheeg scored an 89th minute winner against Sudan (2-1) after his 12th-minute goal was cancelled out by Seddiq Manzoul in the 65th minute. The Egyptians made it two out of two.
Egypt missed out on a treble of consecutive crowns after losing 4-2 against hosts Ethiopia in the final. Egypt threw away their lead twice as Ahmed Abdel-Fatah Badawi scored in the 35th and 75th minutes but they were cancelled out by Girma Tekle (74 minutes) and Mengistu Worku (84 minutes) to take the game to extra-time. Italo Vassalo put Ethiopia ahead on 101 minutes and Worku ensured the win with three minutes remaining as Ethiopia claimed their only title to date.
It took Egypt 24 years and a tournament on home soil to reach the final again. Mahmoud El Khateeb “Bibo”, Taher Abu Zeid and Gamal Abdel-Hamid could not prevail against a fearsome Cameroon side boasting the likes of Roger Milla, Kana Biyik and Thomas Nkono in regular time, with Egypt keeper Thabet El Battal giving his side a remarkable victory with two saves in the penalty shootout.
Mahmoud Al-Gohari created history in Burkina Faso, this time as a coach. He became the first to win the title as player in 1957 and coach in 1998. He was later joined by Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi, who also won the Nations Cup as a player and coach in 1994 and 2013. Egypt faced defending champions South Africa, who returned to the fold in 1996. A powerful, swerving shot from Ahmed Hassan in the 5th minute and an astute free kick that released Tarek Mostafa in the 13th minute sealed Egypt’s fourth trophy. The young and talented Egypt squad, which included the likes of Hazem Emam, Abdel Sattar Sabry, Mohamed Emara and Yasser Radwan, was led by iconic striker Hossam Hassan, who finished as the tournament’s top scorer along with South Africa’s Benni McCarthy with seven goals each.
It was the beginning of Egypt’s golden era. Hassan Shehata built a talented squad around local-based players Essam El Hadary, Mohamed Abou-Treika, Hosni Abd-Rabou, Wael Gomaa, Mohamed Barakat, Emad Meteb and Amr Zaki in addition to then Tottenham striker Ahmed Hossam “Mido” and Anderlecht midfielder Ahmed Hassan. But they were facing a Cote d’Ivoire golden generation boasting Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane, Didier Zokora and Kolo Toure. Hadary had to pull off some superb saves to deny Drogba from close range while Hassan missed a penalty late in the game. In the shootout, Hadary again denied Drogba and Abou-Treika scored the winning penalty to send more than 70,000 spectators at Cairo stadium into ecstasy.
Egypt probably produced their best football in Ghana, which is seen as one of the most glamorous Nations Cup editions. This final will always be remembered by the blunder of Rigobert Song that gave Egypt the victory. Mohamed Zidan pressed the veteran defender and dispossessed him in the final third to set up Mohamed Abou-Treika, who beat Idriss Kameni from close range to break the hearts of the Indomitable Lions, who were led by Samuel Eto’o.
Mohamed “Gedo” Nagy earned the tag of super sub after producing one of the best ever performances off the bench throughout the tournament, including scoring the winner in the 1-0 final victory over Ghana. The Black Stars, led by their all-time scorer Asamoah Gyan, could not find a way through to Essam El-Hadary’s goal. At the other end, Gedo needed only one chance. After being set up by Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, he stroked a low shot into the far corner with five minutes remaining as Egypt completed an unprecedented hat-trick of straight titles. Gedo earned a special Super sub award and the top scorer award with five goals.
After Egypt stunningly failed to qualify for three consecutive Nations Cup editions in 2012, 2013 and 2015, a new generation led by Mohamed Salah bounced back to set up a mouthwatering final against old rivals Cameroon for a third time. Mohamed Elneny put Egypt ahead in the 22nd minute with a fierce drive but a defensive-minded Egypt, led by Argentinean coach Hector Cuper, could not hold on against Cameroon, who staged a fightback as Nicolas Nkoulou levelled the score in the 59th minute and Vincent Aboubakar scored a heart-breaking winner in the 88th minute.
Egypt and Senegal do not have a fierce rivalry but a duel between Mo Salah and Sadio Mane will be interesting to watch!
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