- The Guardian,
- Tuesday February 14 2006
The current Egyptian football icon Mido blotted his copybook with an amazing show of egotism in the African Nations Cup semi-final, but a new star is emerging. Amr Zaki caught my eye while I was in Cairo covering the tournament and he looks to me to have all the qualities to do a good job next season for a club at the lower end of the Premiership.
Zaki is an adaptable striker who can play behind a front two or as a main forward, and he looks to have good energy, attitude, strength and technical ability. He can play short and long passes, gets into the six-yard box effectively and scored with a towering header to take Egypt into the final.
The grapevine says that he will move from his current club ENPPI to one of his country's two big clubs, Zamalek or Al Ahly. But I believe if he can overcome cultural differences he should make for Europe. At the moment he is the leading scorer in Egypt with eight goals from 11 appearances.
He looks to have the determination that would be needed in the Premiership. I like his willingness to seek the ball at all times, and after receiving a heavy tackle from a powerful DR Congo defender in the quarter-final he sprung straight to his feet and gave a contemptuous shrug.
It was a pass he hit in that game for Hassan Hossam to score that really made me sit up. With the outside of his right foot he struck a stunning lofted 50-yard pass from deep midfield. As it dropped teasingly over the giant Congo left-back, Hossam got across his marker and scored with a rocket of a shot high into the net. It was a Hoddle-esque ball from Zaki, a gift-wrapped invitation to score and put Egypt 2-0 ahead and on their way to a semi-final.
Zaki was deployed in the hole against Congo and showed he is an intelligent player. He drifted towards either flank and dropped deep to collect passes from his midfield. He then used the ball with economy, playing passes at a pace which meant that his team-mates could receive comfortably to make the next pass, and his movement was bright.
If a player is lazy in that position he becomes a liability to his team. He has to work and move to give a problem and unbalance the opposition midfield. Zaki did that, often running his marker away before checking back to receive the ball.
In the semi-final his introduction in place of Mido proved crucial, his immediate contribution being a header that took the team into the final after he arrived in the six-yard box with perfect timing. He started the final up front in Mido's absence and his determination and sturdy shielding of the ball gave the excellent Ivory Coast defence plenty to think about.
In the 87th minute he thought he had won the game for Egypt with a tap-in but the goal was disallowed, and twice before that he was poaching in the six-yard box, inches away from reaching crosses. He is brave and showed a cool temperament by scoring his penalty in the shoot-out.
Club ENNPI (Egyptian Oil Company)
Height 5ft 9in
Weight 11st 8lb
Team responsibility 7½/10
Pleat's valuation Uncertain, but a good bet at £1m