CAIRO: Egypt’s striker Mido is an injury doubt as the hosts take on Democratic Republic of Congo in the African Nations Cup quarter-finals today.
Egypt are hoping they will be able to bank on their top striker and a fickle home crowd to pull them through.
Mido picked up a groin strain in Saturday's 3-1 win over World Cup-bound Ivory Coast.
Bearing a huge weight of expectation as his country's best-known sportsman, the absence of the Tottenham Hotspur striker would be a big blow.
Strong in the air, as he showed by heading Egypt's first goal of the competition against Libya, Mido would also provide creative support to strike partner Emad Moteab, who scored twice against the Ivorians.
The one certain absentee is midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika, who also netted on Saturday but is banned for one match after receiving his second caution of the tournament.
Fellow midfielder Mohamed Barakat is crossing his fingers that Egypt score early and keep a demanding crowd of nearly 80,000 onside.
“Usually the fans are not so patient,” he told reporters as he prepared for today's game. “They want us to score and win the match in the first minute.
“But we're the ones on the field, we need to keep things tight and if we have to wait to score until the 90th minute or stoppage time, then so be it.”
The Cup, which Egypt won when they were hosts in 1986, has whipped up real fervour among ordinary locals.
Even from within the bubble of Egypt's hotel and training camp, Barakat said: “What we can feel is that for the first time in 20 years, the whole country is supporting us.
“People are fighting for tickets but there are no tickets available and famous squares all around Egypt are being fitted out with giant screens.
“It gives us more responsibility. We have a heavy task to make these people happy.”
The contrast in terms of pressure and expectation could not be greater with the Congolese.
Beaten in their last group game and only squeezing through to the last eight on goal difference, DR Congo have already accomplished their mission at these Finals.
Suspensions mean French coach Claude LeRoy will have to reshuffle his defence but the attack will again be orchestrated by Portsmouth striker and Congo captain Lomana LuaLua.
LuaLua said recent rows over bonuses would not affect his team, saying: “So far, so good, no-one's focused on that”.
As for the match, LuaLua was hopeful despite facing the host nation in their Cairo lair.
“They are under pressure to perform and that can work for us. If we score first, their heads might go down.” – Reuters