Egypt’s 44 year old veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary performed miracles and saved two crucial penalties as his side booked their passage through to the Africa Cup of Nations final where they will play Cameroon following a dramatic penalty shoot out.
El Hadary saved Burkina Faso’s last two spot-kicks to win the shootout for Egypt in Wednesday’s semi-final.
“I had a feeling that I was going to save the final two penalties,” said the keeper turned fortune teller.
“When we went to the shootout, our 2006 title win crossed my mind,” he added, recalling his penalty shootout save from Didier Drogba to beat Ivory Coast.
Salah opened the scoring for Egypt in the 67th minute and I said at the beginning of the tournament if he plays well then so do Egypt and as the tournament has worn on he has got better and better as have Egypt.
Bance equalised for Burkino Faso in the 73rd minute and the teams were level after 90 minutes so extra time was called for. This produced no further goals so the match went to penalties where El-Said missed the opener for Egypt and Burkino Faso were 3-2 up with two penalties each to go. That man Salah and teammate Warda scored for Egypt while both Kouakou and Traore had their penalties saved by the heroic antics of El Hadary.
For El Hadary’s this is his seventh Nations Cup and he has won four titles already and his ambition is still to play in the World Cup Finals with Egypt.
At this tournament he became the oldest player at a major championship, and on Wednesday he collected his 150th cap for the Pharaohs.
It was inconceivable to think he arrived in Gabon as Egypt’s back-up third choice keeper with first-choice Ahmed El Shenawy injured after just 25 minutes of Egypt’s opening match pulling off one of the saves of the competition and with the reserve keeper also injured El Hadary was bought into the fray with many feeling he was simply too old for the competition but oh how he has proved the doubters all wrong. Having kept a clean sheet in that first game he has been almost invincible, conceding only one goal from normal play in this semi-final when Burkina Faso equalised in the second half.
He now has a place in Sunday’s final in Libreville, where Egypt face a Cameroon team also on a major high following their two nil win against the Black Cats of Ghana and this gives him a chance to become the first player to win five Nations Cup titles which would be a remarkable achievement.
El Hadary’s first title came as a reserve in 1988, just two years after his debut, but he was at the peak of his career as Egypt won three back-to-back Nations Cup titles between 2006 and 2010.
“I’m happy to be in contention for all of these records but the most important is for Egypt to win the cup,” El Hadary said.
“If we win the title, then the record will pass to me and I will be grateful. But I’ve never worried about my personal records. The country comes first, then the record book.”
It would also be a record-extending eighth title For Egypt, who are already the most successful country in the history of the Nations Cup side – and an incredible return to glory after they failed to qualify for the last three tournaments.