Cameroon remain on course to win an unprecedented third consecutive African Nations Cup but the way they reached the quarter-finals made it a disappointing advert for the game in Africa as a whole.
While the pressure was on Egypt to take the game to the reigning champions, Cameroon showed their most pragmatic face. They defended stoutly and rarely went on the attack.
The draw means that Egypt were pipped to the runners-up spot in Group C by Algeria, despite the latter's 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe. Immediately afterwards the Egypt coach, Mohsen Salah, resigned. "I have worked very hard," Salah said, "but unfortunately I failed."
Victory for his side would have put them in the last eight and could have simultaneously eliminated Cameroon, who were in the slightly awkward position of knowing that just a draw would be enough.
Despite winning their previous game 5-3 against Zimbabwe, it gave them a negative mindset. Even the presence in their line-up of the former Sunderland striker Patrick Mboma, the tournament's top scorer with four goals, was not enough to convince the Indomitable Lions they should go all out for victory. Nevertheless, Cameroon finished top of the group but could face difficult quarter-final opponents in Nigeria on Sunday.
Before kick-off, this match promised to be one of the highlights so far of what has been a high-scoring tournament, with both teams' futures in the competition at stake.
That potential did not materialise into an exciting game, but Cameroon's German coach, Winfried Schäfer, was pleased to reach the knock-out stages. "I am satisfied with this result," he said. "Our aim was not a goalless draw but certainly to get through to the next round."
Tellingly, the best of Cameroon's attempts on goal came from misplaced headers by the Egyptian defenders from free-kicks by the Chelsea midfielder Géremi, who admitted later that his team-mates' minds had been on nothing more than simply getting through.
Therefore it fell to Egypt to force the match. As the winners of four Nations Cups - as many as Cameroon- they have an impressive record in this competition and last won it in 1998. However, they failed to live up to that tradition against the side who have won the last two tournaments.
Egypt's team featured six players from one of Africa's best clubs, Zamalek, but they never found the cohesion that should have brought the goal they needed. Their best effort came two-thirds of the way through an increasingly tedious game, when Tarek El Sayed burst through and forced a fine save from Carlos Kameni.
At that point Egypt were set to go through on goal difference as Zimbabwe were leading Algeria 2-0. However, Algeria's late goal changed all that, Egypt could not respond and went out limply.
CAMEROON (3-5-2) : Kameni; Song, Mettomo, Doumbe; Géremi, Djemba-Djemba, Makoun (Olembe, 53), Mbami, Atouba; Eto'o (Ndiefi, 81), Mboma (Idrissou, 64).
EGYPT (4-4-2): Wahed; Wael, Zahir, Bashir, H Ahmed; Tamer ((Ahmed, h-t), Tarek, Hossam, I Ahmed; Mido, Said.
Referee: M Bujsaim (UAE).
* Hocine Achiou, who scored Algeria's winner against Egypt last week, was again their hero as the midfielder's 73rd-minute goal in the 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe in Sousse yesterday took his side through to the quarter-finals on goal difference. Zimbabwe dominated the game and deservedly went ahead through Adam Ndlovu, the brother of Sheffield United's Peter, in the 65th minute. The outstanding Joel Luphahla scored the second soon afterwards with a breakaway goal, but when Zimbabwe's teenage goalkeeper, Tapuwa Kapini, fumbled a cross, Achiou was on hand to keep Algeria in the competition.
ALGERIA (4-4-2): Gaouaoui; Zafour, Aribi, Zaoui (Anther, 26), Haddou (Belmadi, 75); Kraouche, Ziani, Hadjadj, Achiou; Fellahi (Cherrad, 67), Akrour.
ZIMBABWE (4-3-3): Kapini; Mpofu, B Ndlovu, Kaitano, Choto; Sibanda, Harlington (Yohane, 90), Nengomasha; A Ndlovu (Mugeyi, 86), Lupahla, P Ndlovu (Nyandoro, 84).
Referee: E Maillet (Seychelles).Reuse content