Egypt World Cup Preview

"We've got Salah!"
1990 was a special year. Die Hard 2 was released.

But more importantly, it was the last time Egypt had played in the World Cup. After a 28-year absence from the greatest event in football, Egypt are back and ready to achieve what no African side has ever done before. That is, to reach a World Cup semi-final. 

From becoming a Premier League record breaker, winning the golden boot, a potential Ballon d'Or winner to having various chants about him sang passionately across the season, Mohamed "Magic Mo" Salah and Egypt will be heading to Russia 2018 cautiously optimistic that they can achieve something special.

Image: Twitter @MoSalah

The rightful hype surrounding Salah, as someone, alongside the likes of Neymar and Bale, capable of reaching and replacing the best player in the world *insert the Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi debate* means that the pressure on him to deliver is immense.

But it is important not to get carried away: Egypt certainly are not a one-man team. While Mo Salah is irrefutably their talisman and most prized player, World Cups can only be won with 11 players- not one. So the whole Egyptian squad must rely on their own individual talents to collectively take themselves as far as possible in the tournament.

Alongside Egypt as the only other African nations that will be present in Russia are Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Morocco. There has been many questions as to why the standard of African football has failed to reach the heights to take football's top prize. Ranked 45th in the world, it may be fair to say that Egypt are not one of the prime contenders to win the competition that begins in just four days time/ But they will certainly want to create their own history.



THE FINAL 23-MAN SQUAD


Image: Egypttoday.com

Old records smashed and new ones set are an inevitable part of any World Cup, which is why the inclusion of the veteran goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, at 45 years of age, not only makes him the oldest player to ever compete in this tournament but offers a vital level of experience for the younger members of the Egyptian squad. Joining in him are Al Ahly goalkeepers Mohamed El-Shenawy and Sherif Ekramy 

Starting XI: In their 0-0 draw to Colombia on Friday June 1, El-Shenawy started in goal for the first-half and was replaced by El Hadary in the second. These goalkeepers rotated in the 3-0 defeat to Belgium with El Hadary playing in the first-half and El-Shenawy in the second. It is clear that Argentine manager Héctor Cúper will select either one of them for Egypt's opening fixture against Uruguay.

Some familiar names emerge from Egypt's list of defenders. Most notable are Ahmed Hegazi who plays for the recently relegated West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa's Ahmed Elmohamady. Cúper has also chosen Al Ahly defenders Ahmed Fathi, Saad Samir and Ayman Ashraf. Completing the options for the back-four are Mahmoud Hamdi from Zamalek, Mohamed Shafy who plays for Al Fateh and Los Angeles FC defender Omar Gaber.

Starting XI: In their comprehensive defeat to Belgium, Ahmed Fathi, Omar Gaber, Ahmed Hegazi and Mohamed Shafy. The only change in defence from their previous friendly against Colombia was Saad Samir instead of Omar Gaber. Fathi, Hegazi and Shafy will most likely retain their places against Uruguay, with the final spot up for grabs.

In the middle of the park, Héctor Cúper has chosen Al Ahli's Abdallah El Said, Mahmoud Hassan from Kasimpasa and Tarek Hamed who plays for Zamalek. The other midfield options comprise of Egyptians who play their club football in England: Wigan's Sam Morsy, Ramadan Sobhi of Stoke City, and Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny.

Starting XI: The midfielders against Belgium were Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny, and Abdallah El Said. Héctor Cúper recruited striker Amr Warda to the midfield as well so we may see a similar tactic used against Uruguay. 

Upfront for the Egyptians are Marwan Mohsen from Al Ahly, Zamalek's Mahmoud Shikabala, Amr Warda from Atromitos, Al Ittihad's Mahmoud Kahraba and the main man from Liverpool, Mohamed Salah

Starting XI: Marwan Mohsen played as the lone striker against Belgium, which undoubtedly have been Mohamed Salah if not for his devastating injury following Sergio Ramos' tackle in the Champions League final. Salah has declared himself fit for the World Cup which is great news for all. Despite the temptation to start the 40+ goalscorer for Egypt's first match against Uruguay, Héctor Cúper may be wiser not to aggravate Mohamed Salah's injury. Starting Mohsen and then bringing on Salah in the second half seems to be the more practical solution.



Possible Egypt starting XI against Uruguay: 

Goal
El Shenawy

Defence
Ahmed Hegazi 
Ahmed Fathi, 
Mohamed Shafy
Saad Samir 

Midfield
Sam Morsy
Tarek Hamed
Mohamed Elneny
Abdallah El Said
Amr Warda

Forward
Marwan Mohsen



KEY PLAYERS:

 Essam El Hadary
Image: BBC

Ahmed Hegazi 

Image: Footballpremium.com

Mohamed Elneny
Image: Arsenal.com

Mohamed Salah
Image: Goal.com


ROUTE TO THE FINAL 
Egypt find themselves in Group A, alongside the tournament hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. This is no easy group by any means and so Egypt will have to be at their very best if they want to progress.

They begin their 2018 World Cup campaign on Friday June 15 against Uruguay. This will be a thoroughly entertaining game as the Egyptians are up against some of the best attacking players in the world: Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to name a few. It's a difficult first game which is Uruguay will be the likely favourites to come out on top. A 2-1 defeat for Egypt.

If Egypt, as predicted, do not claim any points in their opening game then all the pressure is on for their second match when they meet the home team Russia on Tuesday June 19. The European side do have some talented players in their squad such as CSKA Moscow's Aleksandr Golovin but Egypt's strength in depth will prove too much and so a likely score is 3-1 Egypt.

Monday June 25 marks an important date as Egypt will take on Saudi Arabia in their final group game. Saudi lost 3-0 to Peru in their warm-up game and so Egypt will be expected to claim 3 points in this match. Hopefully Mohamed Salah will be leading the line and so a 4-0 win for Egypt would most likely see them group to the next round of the competition.


WHERE WILL THEY FINISH?

Group A: 
1. Uruguay [9 points]
2. Egypt [6 points]
3. Russia [3 points]
4. Saudi Arabia [0 points]

Round of 16:
1. Egypt vs. Portugal  (3-2 Portugal)
OR
2. Egypt vs. Spain (3-1 Spain)

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