Egypt’s frontline should regain its potency if the team are to dismantle South Africa’s defence in Sunday’s must-win African Cup of Nations qualifier at the Military Academy Stadium in Cairo.
The Pharaohs have only managed to score one goal in three qualifying games so far - a header by central defender Mahmoud Fathallah in the 1-1 opening draw at home to Sierra Leone.
They lacked the necessary firepower to unsettle opposing defences, setting the alarm bells ringing ahead of the anticipated clash against South Africa.
The Bafana Bafana, Group G leaders with six points from three matches, are expected to adopt a defensive strategy to secure a share of spoils, a result which will edge them closer to a place in next year’s Nations Cup finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Egypt will have to find a way through South Africa’s defence despite the absence of key strike duo Emad Meteb and Amr Zaki, who both usually shoulder the responsibility of finding the net.
“They are bound to attack us, no doubt about that, but we could also leave them open at the back. We will need calm heads as it will be one of our toughest ninety minutes as the national team,” South Africa defender Bevan Fransman said.
"We know what's at stake for us, and for them it is even more. We need victory in this game. They have done well against us in the past, but history counts for nothing.”
With no target man at his disposal, Shehata is likely to rely on Borussia Dortmund’s Mohamed Zidan as a lone striker. Mohamed Nagy ‘Gedo’ and Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’ could play as attacking midfielders to support him from deep.
Creativity in carving out spaces in South Africa’s defence is evident in Egypt’s squad but applying the finishing touches will be the serious concern, given the absence of a proven goal-scorer.
Zidan is more of a deep-lying forward and is not in the best possible physical shape due to lack of regular action with Dortmund, who were crowned German champions last month.
The other strikers in Egypt’s squad, such as Ahmed Ali of Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), ENPPI’s Ahmed Abdel-Zaher and Petrojet’s Sayed Hamdy, lack sufficient experience on the international level.
The outcome of the game will largely depend on whether Shehata could find a solution for this dilemma.