African action hots up

Mohamed Barakat and Mohamed Zidan have been recalled by Egypt for tomorrow's high-profile Cairo friendly against Ghana.

Hassan Shehata vowed he would never include Barakat in the national squad after the silky Al-Ahly midfielder criticised the highly successful Pharaohs coach. While Borussia Dortmund striker Zidan has not appeared since a friendly loss to Argentina last March, having being accused of feigning injury to avoid call-ups for 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers. But former national team defender Shehata has buried the hatchet as second-ranked Egypt confront fourth-ranked Ghana, in a clash of African giants at the 70,000-seat Cairo Stadium.

A blow for the coach who guided Egypt to glory in the 2006 and 2008 CAF African Nations Cup tournaments was the late withdrawal of Wigan striker Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam due to a muscle strain. However, Shehata still has a wealth of attacking talent to choose from including another Wigan striker, Amr Zaki, Zidan, Saudi Arabia-based Emad Moteab and regular domestic scorer Ahmed Abdelghani.

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac welcomes back midfielders Sulley Muntari and Laryea Kingston and striker Asamoah Gyan, but injury robs him of defensive stalwart John Mensah and Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien. Club-less former Juventus midfielder Stephen Appiah is included in a squad containing three Egypt-based Ghanaians, goalkeeper George Owu, defender William Mensah and striker 'Junior' Agogo.

Action across the continent
Egypt and the Black Stars of Ghana are among 16 of the 20 African contenders for places at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which are involved in friendly fixtures ahead of the opening third round qualifiers next month. The others are Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo and Tunisia while the idle foursome comprises Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Zambia. FIFA Confederations Cup hosts South Africa and CAF African Nations Championship qualifiers Tanzania will also test their strength against Chile and Zimbabwe respectively.

Nigeria have included five of the Olympic squad that finished second behind Argentina in Beijing last year in an almost full strength squad, for a game against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica in London. Among the Super Eagles strikers is uncapped prolific scorer Michael Eneramo, who is also being wooed by Tunisia, where he plays for leading club Esperance.

Nigeria and Tunisia are in the same FIFA World Cup and CAF African Nations Cup qualifying group, and appear set to battle for first place with Mozambique and Kenya considered outsiders. Other top-five nations in action are Cameroon and Ivory Coast with the Indomitable Lions facing Guinea near Paris while the Elephants included struggling Chelsea striker Didier Drogba for a match with Turkey in Izmir.