Egypt will feel the absence of their captain, Ahmed Hassan, keenly when they open the defence of the African Nations Cup against Cameroon today, their coach, Hassan Shehata, admitted yesterday.
"Hassan is irreplaceable, he is our captain, we are going to miss him in our opening game," Shehata said as the Pharaohs prepared for the Group C encounter in Kumasi.
The Anderlecht midfielder, who won his 131st cap for Egypt in their last warm-up international against Angola on 13 January, is suspended for today's match because of a red card picked up in the qualifiers.
"What makes him so good is he can play any position; defender, midfielder, attack, left or right," added the winning coach from the last Nations Cup.
Hassan competes in a record-equalling seventh Nations Cup tournament this year and should feature in Egypt's second Group C match against Sudan in Kumasi on Saturday.
South Africa's first-choice goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez will miss their opening match against Angola tomorrow because of a fractured finger, their coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, said. Fernandez suffered the injury while warming up for last Wednesday's friendly against Botswana in Durban. Moneeb Joseph would replace Fernandez for the Group D match in Tamale.