Skipper Ahmed Hassan was named in Egypt’s 24-man squad for the crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier at home to South Africa after recovering from a serious knee injury he picked up while on international duty last year.
The evergreen central midfielder, Egypt’s most capped player with 175 appearances, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during the 1-1 home draw with Sierra Leone in an earlier Nations Cup qualifier in September 2010.
Sidelined, Hassan missed the stunning 1-0 losses to Niger and South Africa but marked his long-awaited comeback recently with some lively displays for Egyptian champions Ahly.
He rounded off the Red Devils’ 3-0 victory over Harras El-Hodoud earlier this week with a superb half-volley, prompting Egypt coach Hassan Shehata to recall him for the South Africa clash.
There was no room for Ahly playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika and Zamalek’s burly striker Amr Zaki who both shrugged off injuries lately. Shehata said they needed time to regain full fitness.
Borussia Dortmund’s Mohamed Zidan is likely to spearhead the Pharaohs’ attack, with the likes of Saudi Arabia-based striker Ahmed Ali, Petrojet’s Sayed Hamdy and ENPPI’s Ahmed Abdel-Zaher acting as deputy front men.
Zaki’s club teammate Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, a left-back who was part of Egypt’s 2010 Nations Cup winning squad, was also omitted after committing a defensive blunder in Zamalek’s 1-0 league defeat to Maqassa on Thursday.
Masry’s uncapped defender Hani Saied made Egypt’s roster, as did Ismaily playmaker Abdullah Saied.
Egypt, the tournament’s record holders with seven triumphs under their belt, has no choice but to beat South Africa if they wish to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the Nations Cup.
They lie at the bottom of Group G with a solitary point, six behind leaders South Africa who are favourites to qualify for next year’s finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The winners of the 11 groups and the two best runners-up will reach the biennial tournament.
Goalkeepers: Essam El-Hadary (Merreikh, Sudan), Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed (Zamalek), Ahmed El-Shennawi (Masry).
Defenders: Wael Gomaa, Ahmed Fathi, Sayed Moawad (Ahly), Mahmoud Fathallah (Zamalek), Mohamed Naguib (Ittihad El-Shorta), Hani Saied (Masry), Ahmed Samir Farag (Ismaily), Ahmed Elmohamady (Sunderland, England).
Midfielders: Hosni Abd-Rabou, Amr El-Sulaya, Abdullah Saied (Ismaily), Hossam Ghaly, Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ (Ahly), Ibrahim Salah, Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’(Zamalek).
Strikers: Mohamed Zidan (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Ahmed Aly (Al-Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Mohamed El-Gabbas (Lierse SK, Belgium), Ahmed Abdel-Zaher (ENPPI), Sayed Hamdy (Petrojet).