Poor, poor Rigobert Song. The former Liverpool defender had been inspirational as Cameroon put the traumas of their 4-2 defeat to Egypt in their opening game behind them to become arguably the most defensively disciplined side in the tournament.
It was because of him, a rock and a leader at the heart of their coach Otto Pfister's tactical machinations, that Cameroon even reached the final. And then, having stood strong in the face of an Egyptian onslaught, he committed the sort of blunder that made him such an unfortunate figure of fun in his time in the Premier League.
Cameroon had weathered the storm. The addition of the destructive midfielder Modeste Mbami seemed to have drawn the sting of Egypt. The defending champions may have spent the first 20 minutes of the second half camped in the Cameroon half, but they hadn't scored. Cameroon had even had a couple of rare chances. Then Song miscontrolled a wholly unthreatening Ahmed Hassan through-ball after 77 minutes.
Under no pressure, he found himself chasing back towards his own box with Mohamed Zidan in pursuit. The Hamburg playmaker dispossessed him and then, after both had tumbled, managed to get to his feet first and lay an astute ball across goal for Mohamed Aboutereika, who stroked a calm finish past Idriss Kameni. Cameroon, set up to spoil, having already lost Alexander Song to the muscle problems that made him a doubt and with Samuel Eto'o hobbling with a hamstring strain, had no response. Cruelly, their only real chance in the final minutes fell to Song, but he headed over as Geremi's corner reached him eight yards out.
And so, the most attacking tournament in living memory – 99 goals in 32 games – was won, appropriately, by the team who had played the most creative football. Pfister's designs may have reduced it to a scrap last night, but even in that, Egyptian class shone through. They had by far the better of the play and, after all the ill-feeling that surrounded their success on home soil two years ago, no one could doubt this time that Egypt were worthy winners. They have not lost an African Nations Cup game since going down 2-1 to Algeria in January 2004.
By the end, their coach, Hassan Shehata, usually such a brisk, sergeant-major of a personality, was in tears, aware that, by leading Egypt to a record sixth success, he had equalled the feat achieved previously only by the Ghanaian Charles Gyamfi of defending the title as coach. His captain, Ahmed Hassan, celebrated becoming the first player ever to win a third Nations Cup.
Goal: Aboutereika (77) 0-1.
Cameroon (4-1-2-3): Kameni; Geremi, R Song, Tchato, Atouba; A Song (Binya, 16); Mbia, Emana (Idrissou, 56); Epalle (Mbami, 65), Eto'o, Nkong.
Egypt (3-4-1-2): El Hadary; Shady, H Said, Gomaa; Fathy, A Hassan, Hosny, Moawad; Aboutereika (I Said, 89); Zaki (Shawkey, 84), Motoeb (Zidan, 60).
Referee: K Codja (Benin).
Booked: Cameroon Atouba, Idrissou; Egypt A Hassan.
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