Photo By Senyuiedzorm A. Adadevoh
Burkina Faso and Egypt go head-to-head with unbeaten records and a place in the Africa Cup of Nations final at stake.
Neither team have tasted defeat in Gabon – and seven-time champions Egypt have yet to concede goal.
Having played their semi-final 24 hours earlier than Egypt, the Burkinabe may benefit from extra rest and preparation time.
“It is not an ideal situation, but we have no choice but to adapt,” said Egypt coach Hector Cuper.
“The players will be given time to rehabilitate and hopefully they will be ready come Wednesday night.”
A calf injury rules out Egypt’s Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny and striker Marwan Mohsen is a doubtful starter because of a knee problem.
Despite the disadvantages, Egypt will be expected to continue a remarkably successful semi-finals run spanning 31 years.
My team is capable of producing fantastic football
Paulo DuarteBurkina Faso coach
The Pharaohs eliminated Morocco (1986), Burkina Faso (1998), Senegal (2006), the Ivory Coast (2008) and Algeria (2010) to reach finals, all of which they won.
Egypt have reserved some of their finest performances for the last-four stage, thrashing Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast 4-1 in Ghana and Algeria 4-0 in Angola.
A wide winning margin against the Burkinabe Stallions is unlikely, however, as Egypt have clawed rather than cruised past opponents in Gabon.
Following a 0-0 draw with Mali, they achieved three consecutive 1-0 victories against Uganda, 2015 runners-up Ghana and Herve Renard-coached Morocco.
While scoring only three goals – an average of one every 120 minutes – must trouble Cuper, his team are the only one not to concede a goal in this tournament.
Much credit for that goes to goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, who turned 44 this month and became the oldest footballer to play at a Nations Cup.
“He is first on to the training field and the last to leave,” said Cuper in admiration of an Egyptian chasing a fifth Nations Cup winners’ medal.
El Hadary was part of the squad that went to Burkina Faso 19 years ago, and beat the hosts 2-0 in the semi-finals en route to lifting the trophy.
Morocco did give the veteran shot-stopper moments of severe anxiety from crosses – a fact that will not have gone unnoticed by Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte.
Given the outstanding semi-finals record of Egypt, the Portuguese handler studiously avoided making any gung-ho predictions.
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary
Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary (right) has played at seven Nations Cups
“We dream of doing better than in 2013,” he said, referring to the 1-0 final defeat by Nigeria in South Africa after a giant-killing run.
“My team is capable of producing fantastic football.”
Burkina Faso have progressed even though serious injury has cost them two key players in the first round.
Jonathan Pitroipa, named the best player of the 2013 tournament, and Spanish-based striker Jonathan Zongo were ruled out in the opening week after knee injuries.
“But we have other players. This is a team that I started building seven years ago and I know all their abilities,” Duarte added .
“They are a team capable of giving a fantastic show. The quality and the confidence is there.”
Burkina Faso goalkeeper Herve Koffi, 24 years younger than El Hadary, has conceded two goals, but none from open play.
Cameroon captain Benjamin Moukandjo beat him with a free-kick and 2015 African Footballer of the Year and Gabon captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted a penalty.
In front of Koffi, Burkina Faso have an experienced spine in Bakary Kone, captain Charles Kabore and Prejuce Nakoulma, and in Aristide Bance they have a striker who can come off the bench and change a game, as he did against Tunisia when he scored the opener.
Cameroon and Ghana, both four-time African champions, meet Thursday in the second semi-final in south-eastern city Franceville.