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2017 Afcon final set to be a real thriller

Egypt has won the competition a record seven times while Cameroon has won it four times.

The two countries with the richest Africa Cup of Nations pedigree will meet in the final in Libreville on Sunday, as Egypt and Cameroon clash for the continent’s top footballing prize.

The Pharaohs have won the competition a record seven times, including three-in-a-row between 2006 and 2010. The Indomitable Lions have plundered four titles, the last coming in Mali in 2002. Yet these two were not most pundits’ picks for the 2017 showpiece when the tournament kicked off around three weeks ago.

Cameroon came in with withdrawals from their squad dominating the headlines, Liverpool’s Joel Matip and West Brom’s Allan Nyom among seven overseas-based players who opted not to make the trip to Gabon.

Hugo Broos’ side, however, have shown that there is plenty of strength in depth in Cameroonian football, midfielder Benjamin Moukandjo leading from the front as captain, young Fabrice Ondoa superb in goal, and Christian Bassogog a revelation on the right wing.

Egypt followed their amazing success between 2006 and 2010 by not qualifying for the next three Afcon finals.

Hector Cuper’s side were far from impressive in an opening goalless draw with Mali in Port Gentil – a game in which they also lost first-choice goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy to injury. That, however, may have proved a blessing in disguise as it brought in 44-year-old veteran Essam El Hadary, who has been outstanding.

Egypt’s star player Mohammed Salah has also come to the party, with a brilliant free kick against Ghana and another stunning strike in the semifinal.

While the following statistic is slightly skewed by the three absences between 2012 and 2015, Egypt last lost a game at an Afcon finals on January 29, 2004. They beat Cameroon twice at the 2008 finals. They also beat them in the 2010 quarterfinals and have to be slight favourites on Sunday.

It should be a thriller at the Stade De L’Amite.

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