Odds stacked against Swazis in land of Pharaohs
You would probably be forgiven for thinking that Swaziland is shivering in their boots as they prepare for their Group J African Nations Cup qualifying fixture against Egypt at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo on Friday.
The last time eSwatini, then known as Swaziland, visited Egypt, they were hammered 10-0 and mind you, it was only a friendly game as the Egyptians were preparing for an AFCON fixture against Zimbabwe.
But now that this is an official encounter, even without several players that have been withdrawn due to an assortment of injuries, the Egyptians should be too strong for a Swaziland side that is likely to be without several key players.
Banele “Popo” Sikhondze, a livewire attacking midfielder signed by South African Premier League side Polokwane City from Mbabane Swallows, has not been called up.
The same applies to another former Mbabane Swallows attacker – Felix Badenhorst – at one stage strongly linked to Kaizer Chiefs, Platinum Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic but currently on the books of Mbombela United, has apparently requested to be excused from international duty.
A highly respected Swaziland sport journalist – Linda Dlamini – has meanwhile bemoaned the slow recovery of one top marksman Sabelo “Sikhali” Ndzinisa, the Mbabane Swallows striker who smashed four goals against Platinum Stars in a 4-2 victory during the African Champions League in early 2017.
However, a horrible head injury in which the player suffered a cracked skull, ruled him out for a year and is only expected back to action in January and Dlamini feels that his aggression is sorely missed by the team, even his club Mbabane Swallows has not been able to get goals in his absence.
Swaziland would be pinning their hopes on former SuperSport United winger and now Mbabane Swallows skipper Tony Tsabedze who seems to be getting better the older he gets and does not seem to have slowed down even though he is well over 30-years.
Meanwhile, Arab Contractors striker Ahmed Ali and Al Ahly forward Salah Monseh have withdrawn from the Egyptian squad due to niggling injuries but the coach has announced that he will not call up replacements.
“Ali left the national team training camp after picking up a muscular strain in the opening training session on Monday. Medical scans revealed that he couldn’t be available for Eswatini match,” reads a statement released by the Egyptian Football Association.
Salah Mohsen on the other hand, was injured during a CAF Champions League encounter for Al Ahly against Algerian side Entente Setif in the tournament’s first leg semi-final match last week.
However, even without the duo, coach Javier Aguirre still has at his disposal English Premier League side Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, Olympiacos striker Ahmed Kouka and Ahly attacker Marawan Mohsen for the six points at stake against the Swazis.
The return leg match is scheduled for the Mavuso Sports Stadium in Manzini on Tuesday.