World Cup Preview – Egypt (3/32)

World Cup Preview – Egypt

Egypt

CAF (Africa)

Group A

Best WC Performance: Last 16 (First Round) – 1934

Current World Ranking: 45

History

The most decorated African country make their World Cup return this summer, after a 28-year absence.

African champions in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010, it’s somewhat surprising that this will be only the third appearance on the world stage for the Pharaohs, after 1934 and 1990.

It may be even more surprising however, to know that they have never won a World Cup finals fixture, having lost their only game in 1934 in addition to their group stage exit in 1990, following a loss and two draws.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy, Sherif Ekramy (both Al Ahly).

Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf (all Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Al Fateh), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC).

Midfielders: Tarek Hamed, (Zamalek), Abdallah Said (Al Ahli), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa).

Forwards: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Shikabala (Zamalek), Amr Warda (Atromitos), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad).

Group Fixtures:

vs Uruguay 13:00, 15.06.18 Central Stadium , Yekaterinburg

vs Russia 19:00, 19.06.18 Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg

vs Saudi Arabia 15:00, 25.06.18 Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Manager – Hector Cuper

Egypt are currently managed by Argentinian Hector Cuper.

After an undistinguished club career in Argentina, the 62-year-old former centre-back moved into management soon after his retirement.

Having built a reputation as an exciting prospect over four years in Argentina, Cuper was lured to Europe in 2001 with Mallorca.

Impressive spells at Valencia and Internazionale followed, but his career has somewhat disappointed since. He briefly moved into International football with Georgia in 2008, but resumed his journeyman nature soon after, settling with Egypt in 2015.

Qualification

African teams must progress through three rounds to be one of five countries to qualify for the World Cup.

Thanks to their ranking, Egypt were one of 27 to receive byes to the second round, where they faced Chad in a two-leg knockout tie.

After a shock 1-0 loss in the first leg, the Pharaohs were staring down the barrel, but an inspired performance at home sent them through 4-1.

For the final round, the remaining 20 teams were split into five groups, with only the group winners qualifying for the finals.

Egypt were placed in Group E, with Uganda, Congo and favourites Ghana.

After impressive wins against Congo and Ghana, they came unstuck against surprise packages Uganda in gameweek three. They recovered however, avenging their defeat to Uganda before a 94th minute Mo Salah penalty defeated Congo once again and sealed top spot with a game to spare.

Captain – Essam El Hadary

Egypt may be unlikely to win the World Cup, but one title they will almost certainly claim is the oldest player at the tournament.

That honour will fall to 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. Something of an enigma, El-Hadary played all his club career in Africa or Asia but for a single season in Switzerland with Sion. Despite this, he was described by Didier Drogba as “the best opponent” he ever faced.

Having retired from international duty in 2013, he returned a year later and smashed past 150 caps, re-establishing himself as first choice through qualifying for Russia.

Danger man – Mohamed Salah

No surprises here, 33 goals in 57 national appearances, 32 in his debut season in the Premier League, Mohamed Salah is the most in-form player in the world, let alone for Egypt.

Joint top scorer in African qualifying; including both goals in the win over the Congo which clinched qualification, if Salah doesn’t score, Egypt don’t win. There will be few countries who rely so heavily on a single player as the Pharaohs do with him.

After a worrying injury sustained in the Champions League final, fans will be praying he returns to fitness in time for Egypt’s tournament opener against Uruguay.

Young Player – Ramadan Sobhi

Despite only being a bit part player for relegated Stoke City, Ramadan Sobhi has been a mainstay in his national side since his breakthrough in 2015.

Capable of operating in central midfield or further advanced, Sobhi will most likely compete with Trezeguet for a role on the left, either in a front three or slightly deeper in midfield.

With Stoke down and no assurance of game time in the Championship, 21-year-old Sobhi may well play for a move, knowing there is no better stage to advertise himself.

Premier League Players

More than you thought? Salah and Sobhi are joined by West Brom’s Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr (who has now returned to Zamalek) as well as Mohamed El Neny of Arsenal.

Salah aside, every one of them has endured a difficult season with their clubs, a factor which must be considered when analysing Egypt’s prospects of progression.

In addition to those five, Ahmed Elmohamedy currently plays for Aston Villa of the Championship, while Wigan Athletic’s Sam Morsy earned promotion from League one last season.

Prediction

Bookies have the Pharaohs as third favourites to progress, with odds just over evens.

Egypt’s squad is not the best, but in Salah they have an individual capable of winning matches on his own.

Avoiding defeat against Uruguay must be a priority for their tournament opener, before more pivotal matches against Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, Egypt play very few international fixtures against teams from Europe, and even more rarely do they win them. In the last six years, only Bosnia and Herzegovina have succumbed to the Pharaohs – in 2014.

Though Russia are not amongst Europe’s elite, they possess home advantage. Expecting Uruguay to top the group, Egypt must end their European hoodoo to ensure progression.

Unfortunately, form and squad depth mean I struggle to see them getting out of the group.

Written by Sam Hanys.

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