We continue with our “Team Talks” for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in group A. In this second part, we turn our attention to the land of the Pharaohs – Egypt.
Team : EGYPT
Coach: Hector Cuper
Captain: Essam El Hadary
Nickname(s): The Pharaohs
Last Qualified in: 1990
Result in 2014: Did not qualify
Qualified as: CAF Third Round Group E winners (08 October 2017)
Previous World Cup Appearances: (2 Times) 1934, 1990.
Best World Cup Finals Result: Group Stages in 1934 and 1990.
The Preliminary Squad:
Essam El Hadary, Mohamed El-Shennawy, Sherif Ekramy, Mohamed Awad; Ahmed Fathi, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf, Mahmoud Hamdy, Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr, Ahmed Elmohamady, Karim Hafez, Omar Gaber, Amro Tarek; Tarek Hamed, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Shikabala, Abdallah Said, Sam Morsy, Mohamed Elneny, Kahraba, Ramadan Sobhi, Trezeguet, Amr Warda; Marwan Mohsen, Ahmed Gomaa, Kouka, Mohamed Salah.
1) Essam El Hadary:
The Legendary goalkeeper is Egypt’s 3rd highest capped player ever with 156 caps to his name! The 45-year old will lead his nation at the biggest stage of them all in his first world cup where he is set to become the oldest ever player. The Al Taawoun custodian will be the one entrusted with the duty to keep the goal for his nation at this summer’s Magnum Opus of world football.
2) Ahmed Fathi:
The 33-year old was the player of the tournament for the North Africans in the 2010 African Cup of Nations. He is 5th in Egypt’s all time list off caps with 124. The Al Ahly defender was instrumental in his club’s route to the finals of the 2016-17 CAF Champions League. Once again the Egyptian vice-captain will be marshalling the troops from the back.
3) Ahmed Hegazi:
The West Bromwich Albion defender is a pretty well known figure in the Premier League. Despite the West Midland club’s relegation this season, the 27-year old impressed the fans and pundits alike in the top flight of English football. He will be given the responsibility of partnering Fathi at the heart of the defence for the The Pharaohs.
4) Mohamed Elneny:
The 25-year old have been a much improved player at the heart of the midfield this season. Under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger, the 25-year old has made quite an impact at the holding midfielder role for Arsenal. Hector Cuper will be hoping for similar impact from the former FC Basel man.
Mahmoud Hassan, commonly known as Trezeguet, was one of the highest-scoring midfielders across Europe last season. The 23-year old was the joint 9th top scorer with 13 goals for Kasimpasa SK in the Turkish Super Lig. Egyptian fans will certainly hope that he recreates his club form at Russia and emulate the great French striker, after whom he is nicknamed.
6) Mohamed Salah:
Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, is in serious doubt of missing out on the World Cup after a debatable challenge from Sergio Ramos in the UEFA Champions League Final caused him a shoulder injury. “The Egyptian King” has netted 44 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions this season and led Liverpool to their first UEFA Champions League Final in 11 years. The probable contender for the FIFA Best Player 2018, will definitely be one of the biggest attraction, hoping that he will be medically cleared to play.
The Egyptian team has not been in the best form of late. In their last 11 international matches they have only won thrice against Libya, Uganda and Congo, while drawing 3 and losing 5. Their last win came way back in October against Congo when a last minute Mo Salah penalty ensured their FIFA World Cup qualification. They lost against Greece and drew against Kuwait in their last two matches.
Egypt were drawn in Group A alongside hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. They will play Uruguay in their opening match on 15th of June, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia on 19th and 25th June respectively.
In spite of having former 2-times winners Uruguay, hosts Russia and surprise outfit Saudi Arabia in their group, Egypt are favourites to progress to the round of 16, for the first time in their history. But then, a possible second round encounter with Spain or Portugal beckons and Mohamed Salah needs to be totally fit and at his best, for Egypt to make it to the quarters or beyond.
Egypt became the first ever African Nation as well as the first nation from outside the two Americas and Europe to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, in 1934. Egypt hold the record for most African Cup of Nations win with 7 and joint 5th most Olympic appearances with 11 (also best record outside the two Americas and Europe).
How far do you think Egypt will progress? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Muhammad غفّاري