Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’
Egyptian fans will be hoping Shikabala replicate his Zamalek heroics when he plays against South Africa as he often flatters to deceive on the international stage despite his undoubted talent.
The in-form attacking midfielder is enjoying a season to remember, having produced a series of impressive displays to help Cairo’s Zamalek top the Egyptian Premier League table with seven matches remaining.
Shikabala, who is the league’s top scorer with 12 goals, causes constant menace to opponents with some neat footwork, mazy runs and powerful left-foot shots.
Egypt coach Hassan Shehata is expected to field him as a deep-lying forward on Sunday to support Mohamed Zidan, who is likely to play as a lone striker.
Borussia Dortmund striker Mohamed Zidan will shoulder the responsibilities of finding the net against South Africa, given the absence of influential strike duo Amr Zaki and Emad Meteb.
He is set to spearhead Egypt’s attack against the expected tight defence of South Africa, who will be happy to secure a share of spoils and return home with a valuable point that would all but confirm their presence in next year’s Nations Cup finals.
Zidan missed large parts of the season with a serious knee injury but could not break into Dortmund’s starting line-up following his recovery as the team were crowned German champions for the first time since 2002.
Egypt will be relying on his pace, tricks and precise shots, which he usually sends from the edge of the area, to break down South Africa.
Hosni Abd-Rabou is regaining top form in a timely manner after struggling for several months with a serious knee injury.
The central midfielder, who was voted best player in Egypt’s triumphant African Cup of Nations campaign in 2008, looked lively lately as he produced some fine displays with Ismaily in the Egyptian Premier League.
His versatility was also evident after he switched to the centre of defence to help Ismaily, who compete with Zamalek and Ahly for the league title, make up for the loss of a couple of defenders through injury.
His distribution of passes and accurate free kicks could be useful for Egypt in their bid to carve out spaces in South Africa’s backline.
Central defender Gould will be burdened with keeping Egypt’s forwards at bay as South Africa are likely to adopt a defensive strategy at Cairo’s Military Academy Stadium.
He was present in Cairo when his South African club, SuperSport United, slumped to a 2-0 defeat by Egyptian champions Ahly in the African Champions League preliminary round in March.
The 28-year-old made his South Africa debut in September 2008 and was part of their FIFA Confederations Cup squad a year later.
“The goal is to get three points, but we will still be happy with a point. We must not make the mistake that they are a weakened side even though they are bottom of the group,” Gould said ahead of the game.
Winger Tshabalala can play a key role in upping the tempo of South Africa’s counter-attacks against Egypt, thanks to his pace.
The 26-year-old, who plays for South African outfit Kaizer Chiefs, made his South Africa debut in a friendly against Egypt in January 2006, which his side won 2-1 in Cairo.
He was part of the Bafana Bafana squad for the 2006 and 2008 African Nations Cups and also played at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup on home soil.
“It will be a very tactical game. They are a good team, but the pressure is more on them because if they drop points, they won’t qualify for the Nations Cup,” Tshabalala said.
Striker Katlego Mphela is best known in Egypt for notching a last-gasp goal which gave South Africa a precious 1-0 home win over the Pharaohs in March.
The 26-year-old, who plays for South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns, broke Egypt’s hearts deep in stoppage time when he outpaced his marker to latch onto a through ball and score with aplomb.
Egypt defenders are likely to keep an eye on Mphela, who scored two goals on his South Africa debut when they beat Syechelles in a friendly in 2005, during Sunday’s clash.
“The advantage there is that they might open up and we could be punishing them, but we should not be stupid and look for a win when we can see we can't get it,” Mphela said.