Pharaohs, Eagles in semis

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LUANDA, January 26- Egypt kept their title defence firmly on track with a 3-1 extra time win over Cameroon while goalkeeper Victor Enyeama was Nigeria's penalty shoot-out hero against Zambia in Monday's quarter-final action at the Africa Cup of Nations.Egypt now face bitter rivals Algeria and Nigeria take on Ghana in Thursday’s semi-finals with the victors meeting in Luanda’s 11 November stadium in Sunday’s finale.

It was always going to be hard to live up to Algeria’s thrilling five goal extra time win over favourites Ivory Coast on Monday, but silky smooth Egypt managed it.

The Pharoahs extended their unbeaten run in the continental championship to 17 games despite going a goal down with skipper Ahmed Hassan heading in to his own net.

But Hassan celebrated earning an African record 170th cap with a peach of a goal in the 37th minute, firing in from 35 yards to land the ball inches in front of keeper Carlos Kameni who watched in despair as the ball bounced past him.

Extra time was only two minutes old when substitute Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nafy put Egypt in front and they turned the screw on 95 minutes when a curling freekick by Hassan was adjudged to have been palmed beyond the goalline by Kameni.

Television replays showed that the ball did not cross the line.

A startling statistic from this last eight fixture in Benguela was that Cameroon had no fewer than 24 corners to Egypt’s’ none.

Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen angrily walked out of the post-match press conference, leaving skipper Samuel Eto’o to take issue with South African referee Jerome Damon.

"The referee supported Egypt a bit because they did not deserve to win this game. But I won’t blame the referee because this is Africa and we still have a lot to learn."

Egypt assistant coach Shawki Gharib saluted Cameroon and defended Damon’s performance.

"Cameroon are a great team and they pushed us very hard.

"We, on our own part, played very well and knew what we needed to do to win this match.

"However, a match is all about 90 minutes and there are no games without mistakes, but overall the referee was fair to both teams."

Man of the hour Hassan, whose country is going for a record seventh crown, was unperturbed by the controversy.

"I’m very happy because we won today," he said. "We played a very good match, and I’m thrilled to score two goals and also with the record of 170 appearances."

Egypt now take on Algeria, who thwarted their chances of competing in the World Cup in November’s acrimonious play-off.

But Africa Cup of Nations’ organisers will be spared any similar violent clashes between the two country’s fans as there are barely any of them in Angola due to visa restrictions and the exhorbitant cost of accommodation and food.

Ghana, despite their youthfulness and lack of star players, will fancy their chances against Nigeria after a turgid scrappy affair in Lubango – the goalless stalemate would have gone on all night if it hadn’t been for spotkicks.

Zambia’s Thomas Nyirenda saw his penalty saved by Enyeama leaving Nigeria’s Hapoel Tel Aviv-based stopper to put the Super Eagles into the last four when he stepped up and converted for a 5-4 win.

For Zambia it was a cruel end to what has been a fine tournament for Herve Renard’s minnows, who outplayed Nigeria for much of the game.

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