Egypt is the biggest country in African football. They have won the African Cup of Nations seven times, more than any other nation. However, during the golden age when they won the AFCON title three times consecutively, the Egyptians failed to qualify for any of the world cup finals and thus failed to showcase their African dominance on the big stage. In fact, Egypt had qualified for the World Cup only twice (1934 and 1990) before 2018.
Egypt qualified for the World Cup 2018 from a group that had Uganda, Congo and Ghana; the surprise package at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Egypt secured their spot in Russia with a stoppage time penalty to earn a 2-1 victory over Congo in Alexandria. It is the first time that the North Africans would be appearing at the World Cup in 28 years.
They have been drawn in a relatively easy group, at least compared to the rest of the African teams. They are drawn in Group A with Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The rest of the world hope that the defensive strength of Egypt and the brilliance of Mo’ Salah would see the Pharaohs to the second round. If they proceed to the next round, they are expected to face either Spain or Portugal who are expected to finish top of their own group.
The Pharaohs of Egypt are managed by the Hector Cuper, the European Coach of the year 2000. The Argentine took charge of the Egyptian national team in 2015 and he led the team to the finals of the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon but they lost to Cameroon. Cuper is particularly famous for his negative records in finals. He has lost a total of six Cup finals including two UEFA Champions League Finals. The Egyptian Football Association has backed Cuper after securing a place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Pharaohs to watch out for
Naturally, most people would not look beyond Mohammed Salah. The Egyptian had a fantastic debut season with Liverpool football club in England. His 32 goals broke the record for most goals scored in a single English league season while he scored 44 goals in total. Although it is uncertain if Salah would be fit for the opening fixture against Uruguay, we hope that the BBC African Player of the Year can replicate his incredible form for Egypt at the World Cup.
Ahmed Hegazi and Essam El Hadary would also need to come up with good performances as they hold the defensive anchor of the team. The West Brom defender and the 45 year old goalkeeper and Captain would be instrumental to the success of the team who adopt a counter-attacking style of play. Mohammed Elneny of Arsenal Football Club will also travel to Russia with Egypt.
Egypt’s World Cup 2018 Squad
Goalkeepers: Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El Shennawy (Al Ahly)
Defenders: Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Saad Samir (Al Ahly)
Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly Jeddah), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad Jeddah), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Shikabala (Al Raed), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos)
Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Egypt’s World Cup 2018 fixtures
- Uruguay: Friday, June 15 at 1pm
- Russia: Tuesday, June 19 at 7pm
- Saudi Arabia: Monday, June 25 at 3pm