By Mark Gleeson
LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Egypt made a slow start on their return to the African Nations Cup after a seven-year absence, but have reached the semi-finals without conceding and are getting stronger as the tournament progresses.
The seven-times champions meet Burkina Faso on Wednesday and their Argentine coach Hector Cuper says they are chasing a “dream that is getting closer and closer with each game”. Egypt won three successive titles between 2006 and 2010 but then did not qualify for the next three editions of the tournament. “History is very important and I know all of Egypt expects but my job has been to prepare this side for the Nations Cup without looking back at what happened in the past,” the Argentine coach said on Tuesday. “We wanted to come here and just do well but now that we have got this far our ambition is now to go on and reach the final and win the cup.” Egypt drew their opening game with Mali and then snatched a last-minute winner against Uganda before beating Ghana to top Group D. They then edged past edged Morocco 1-0 in Sunday’s quarter-final. “I believe in their capabilities but I’ve been amazed by their determination,” added former Valencia and Inter Milan boss Cuper of his 23-man squad. “I’ve never seen a group of players who love their country so much. They, as a new generation of players, have high ambitions to win an eighth title for Egypt. I feel that dream is coming true.” Cuper’s side will be without injured midfield link man Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal and striker Marwaan Mohsen for Wednesday’s semi in Libreville. “It’s a pity they are out but we will have to adjust,” Cuper added.
(Editing by Toby Davis)