Egypt advanced to the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations after a 1-1 scoreline in the semi-final against Burkina Faso led to penalties, and the hero of the night made the difference in the shootout.
Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary was in fine form on Wednesday night, saving numerous attempts from the Burkinabe in regulation time before stopping two penalties in the eventual shootout that was won 4-3 by the Pharaohs.
The 44-year-old stopper recently earned the record as the oldest player to feature at a Nations Cup competition, and on the night another incredible stat came to light when Aristide Bancé scored past the keeper in the second half to cancel out Mohamed Salah’s opener.
It was the first goal that El Hadary had conceded at the AFCON in 653 minutes of play, meaning that the shot-stopper almost went an entire 11 hours before allowing the ball to pass him and bulge the back of the net.
El Hadary’s heroics on the night were of incredible value to the team, as saving Herve Koffi and Bertrand Traore’s spot-kicks meant that the Pharaohs qualify for the final of the AFCON, where they will play against either Ghana or Cameroon on Sunday for a chance to win a record eighth Nations Cup crown.
With El Hadary in top form and aiming to bring the African title back to Cairo, the Egyptians look capable of toppling either the Black Stars or the Indomitable Lions in Libreville this weekend, while Salah’s attacking prowess makes him a potential match-winner for the Egyptians.
I would not bet against El-Hadary and company achieving their eighth AFCON title on Sunday, going into the match unbeaten in their last 24 Nations Cup matches.