FIFA Ranking: 45
When it comes to big names in football in Africa, Egypt is royalty. They were the first African nation to grace the world cup, taking part in 1934, where they lost their match 4-2 against the great Hungarian team, long before much of the continent had been freed from colonialism. In addition, Egypt is by far one of the most successful nations in the African cup of nations, the continental competition that is held every two years, between 16 of the best footballing nations.
Names such as Mohammed Aboutrika, Amir Zaki, Hossam Ghaly and El Hadary are well known in the footballing lexicon of Africa. However, this continental dominance and experience has not always been reflected at the World Cup. Surprisingly, Egypt will be making only its third appearance at a world cup, following appearances at the 1934 and 1990 editions.
Egyptian football is on the rise after the dark days of the 1st February 2012 Port Said massacre where a game between Al Ahly and Al Masry was the scene of a ghastly massacre of football fans, leading to 74 deaths and the suspension of the Egyptian football league for two years. The world cup qualification is a feel-good story, and the brilliance of Mo Salah has captured the imagination of a nation which has been through a lot since the Egypt revolution of 2011.
How they got there
Egypt beat chad 4-1 on aggregate to qualify for the final group stage of African qualifiers, where they faced Uganda, Ghana and the Republic of Congo. A strong home record, where they won all three of their matches together with a draw against Ghana away from home and a win against Congo led them to first place in the group. A last-minute penalty by Mohammed salah against Congo ensured they qualified for the world cup with a match to spare.
Russia World Cup 2018 – Egypt’s squad
Goalkeepers: Essam El-Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), Mohamed Awad (Ismaily).
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Mohamed Abdel-Shafy (Al Fath) Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (West Brom), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Karim Hafez (RC Lens), Omar Gaber (LAFC), Amro Tarek (Orlando City).
Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos), Mahmoud Abdel Aziz (Zamalek), Shikabala (Al Raed), Abdallah Said (KuPS), Sam Morsy (Wigan), Kahraba (Ittihad).
Forwards: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Ahmed Gomaa (Al Masry) Ahmed Mahgoub (SC Braga)
Egypt is in what is statistically the poorest group in the world cup if you consider the FIFA rankings. Together with the host country Russia, Egypt has been paired with Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. A placing in the last 16 is well within their reach, looking at the relative strengths of Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Unfortunately, Egypt is in terrible form, of their past five world cup friendlies, they have only drawn two and lost three, including a 3-0 pasting by Belgium on 6th June. However, led by the wily coach Hector Cuper, they are well drilled and will defend deep and look to give the ball the forwards in space and launch counter-attacks.
Most of their hopes rests on the brilliant Mo Salah, who is coming off a record-breaking season in the premier league, where he won the top goal scorer with 42 goals scored in all competitions. He will be ably assisted by the likes of Aston villa’s Ahmed Elmohamady, Arsenal’s Mohammed Elneny, and West Bromwich Albion’s Ahmed Hegazi, who form the spine of the team. Unfortunately for them, Mohammed Salah was injured in the UEFA champions league final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. One of the biggest subplots of the world cup is how fit he will be for the world cup, having not taken part in any of the warm-up matches.
The injuries to Mohammed Salah and Mo Elneny will cost them, dear, with both stars not fully fit headed into the tournament. The game against Russia looks to be pivotal, with both teams looking to beat the weak Saudis and finish second behind the clear favorite for first place, Uruguay. Any point gotten from Uruguay will be considered a bonus. It is likely that the Pharaohs will qualify second from the group A, where they will likely face Spain (likely winners of Group B) and that is where their world cup adventure will probably end.