LIBREVILLE, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary has acknowledged that the seven-times African champions did not end their seven-year exile from the Nations Cup with the title in mind, but are now ready to reclaim their crown in Sunday’s final against Cameroon.
After winning an unprecedented hat-trick of Nations Cups between 2006 and 2010, Egypt failed to qualify for the next three editions of the tournament before ousting Nigeria in qualifying to reach Gabon.
They started uncertainly with a goalless stalemate against Mali and were not convincing in victories over Uganda, Ghana, Morocco and Burkina Faso, on penalties, in the semi-finals.
“Since we qualified for this edition of the Afcon, having been absent for the past three editions, we only had in mind to come here, to make a good impression and to do our best to reach the final,” 44-year-old El Hadary told reporters on Saturday.
”We weren’t sure of it but as we’ve progressed, it’s come,“ he added. ”Myself and my teammates are one family and we have one objective, to win the cup.
“We’ve made it our mission to reach the final and now we have,” the 150-cap stopper added. “Together with our will, our determination and our loyalty to our country, we’re ready to lift the title.”
While Egypt have more experience than their Cameroonian opponents, coach Hector Cuper has acknowledged that his side must not be considered favourites ahead of Sunday’s showdown in Libreville.
“There can be no expectations, no one can say how it will go and there are no favourites,” the Argentine coach began.
“The winner will be the team who are better prepared and who take their chances.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)