Egypt vs Morocco
Venue: Stade de Port-Gentil
Kick off: 8pm
Several Egypt players have played down the significance of a decades-old barren run against Morocco, but they are well aware they need to bury the ghost of their North African rivals if they are to reach the African Cup of Nations semis for the first time in seven years.
While Egypt were facing Ghana in their last Group D game on Wednesday, some fans back home wondered if a win would be harmful, given that it would pit the Pharaohs against old nemesis, Morocco, whom they have not beaten in 31 years.
But a Mohamed Salah free kick gave Egypt a 1-0 victory which saw them leapfrog Ghana to top spot in their group, setting up a mouthwatering clash against Group C runners-up Morocco at Gabon’s Port-Gentil Stadium.
In 1986, a superb free kick from Egypt great Taher Abou-Zeid gave them a 1-0 semi-final win over Morocco in the Nations Cup on home soil.
Since then, Egypt have met Morocco 12 times, drawing eight matches and losing four.
They could not even beat Morocco when they lifted the Nations Cup trophy in 1998 and 2006, losing 1-0 and drawing 0-0 respectively.
All in all, Egypt only won two out of 26 competitive and friendly matches against Morocco, but they insist history will count for nothing during Sunday’s clash.
“I don’t believe in any such barriers,” Egypt’s veteran 44-year-old keeper, Essam El-Hadary, told reporters on Saturday.
“We respect the Moroccan team but history is just history, we will not take it into our consideration. We are determined to fight for a win.”
The Pharaohs have won the tournament for a record seven times and they will be looking to clinch their eighth title this year in Gabon.
Egypt’s last success came in 2006, when they defeated Ivory Coast in the final.
On the other hand, Morocco handler, Herve Renard will be pushing for a win against one of the tournament favoruties.
A victory over Egypt will boost their confidence for the semi-final fixture.
Egypt Possible XI: El Hadary, Fathy, Hegazy, Gabr, Abdul Shafy, El Nenny, Hamed, Ramadan, Salah, Trezeguets, Marwan.
Morocco Possible XI: Munir, Mendyl, Saiss, Da Costa, Benatia, Dirar, El Kaddouri, Boussoufa, El Ahmadi, Fajr Bouhaddouz.