It has been 28 years since Egypt last made an appearance in the FIFA World Cup, a drought that was expected by many to last a while longer. However, thanks to a penalty kick that will forever be engraved in every Egyptian’s mind, Egypt has finally returned to football’s most prestigious cup tournament with enough talent and ambition to record a strong showing at this year’s competition. And finally, in less than three weeks, millions of Egyptians will get to watch their team take part on the biggest stage there is for the very first time.
This will be Egypt’s third World Cup appearance only after qualifying to the tournament on two previous in 1934 and 1990. Egypt’s top World Cup scorer is Abdelrahman Fawzy, who scored twice in a 2-4 loss against Hungary during the 1934 tournament, with the only other scorer being Magdi Abdelghani who netted Egypt’s sole goal in the 1990 tournament against the Netherlands. Egypt played a total of four games in the World Cup, drawing two and losing two, meaning that this generation has a chance at recording Egypt’s first ever win at a World Cup tournament.
Héctor Cúper, Egypt’s head coach, has called up 29 players for the provisional World Cup squad, but only 23 will get the chance to represent their country at Russia. The Argentinian will base his final selection on his player’s performances in the three scheduled friendly games ahead of the World Cup. Egypt drew the first against Kuwait (1-1), and will next face Colombia and Belgium on the 1st and 6th of June respectively.
One can watch the football matches, officially, on beIN Sports channels
The 29-man provisional squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Essam El-Hadary (Al-Taawoun – Saudi Arabia), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly – Egypt), Mohamed El Shenawy (Al Ahly – Egypt), and Mohamed Awad (Al Ahly – Egypt)
Defenders: Ali Gabr (West Brom – England), Ahmed El Mohamady (Aston Villa – England), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC – USA), Ahmed Hegazy (West Brom – England), Ahmed Fathy (Al Ahly – Egypt), Karim Hafez (RC Lens – France), Mohamed Abdel Shafy (Al Fateh – Saudi Arabia), Saad Samir (Al Ahly – Egypt), Amro Tarek (Orlando City – USA), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly – Egypt), Mahmoud Hamdy (Al Zamalek – Egypt)
Midfielders: Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic– England), Tarek Hamed (Al Zamalek – Egypt), Kahraba (Al-Ittihad – Saudi Arabia), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City – England), Shikabala (Al-Raed – Saudi Arabia), Abdallah El Said (Kuopion Palloseura – Finland), Trezeguet (Kasımpaşa – Turkey), Amr Warda (Atromitos FC– Greece), Mahmoud Abdel Aziz (Al Zamalek – Egypt), and Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal FC – England)
Attackers: Ahmed Hassan Kouka (SC Braga – Portugal), Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly – Egypt), Ahmed Gomaa (Al Masry – Egypt), and Mohamed Salah (Liverpool FC– England)
Egypt was drawn into Group A alongside the hosts, Russia, South America’s Uruguay, and Saudi Arabia in what is most definitely a relatively easy draw, with a real chance of progression up for grabs.
When are the games and what can we expect from our upcoming adversaries?
Game One: Egypt vs. Uruguay
Date: 15th of June, 2018
Local Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg
Key Players: Luis Suárez (FC Barcelona – Spain), Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain – France), and Diego Godín (Atlético Madrid – Spain)
Uruguay, a two-time World champion, are the favorites to top Group A. The South Americans finished the qualifiers in second place only behind a fierce Brazil team. Led by two of football’s best strikers and a centre-back that loves a clean sheet, Uruguay will most definitely be Egypt’s toughest group stage opponent. Nicking a point off in the first game would be a massive confidence booster, but legendary performances from Hegazy and Gabr, as well as a bit of Mo magic, are needed.
Game Two: Russia vs. Egypt
Date: 19th of June, 2018
Local Time: 8:00 PM
Location: Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Key Players: Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar – Russia), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow – Russia), and Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal FC – Spain)
In terms of talent, Egypt has enough to walk away from game two with all three points. But, taking into consideration the home advantage with a wild crowd behind an ambitious Russian team, this matchup could prove to be as tough as it gets. To win, the players must go into the game with a strong mentality and immense focus, fully confident that they have what it takes to beat the hosts at their home ground and able to remain unrattled by the jeers to come.
Game Three: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt
Date: 25th of June, 2018
Local Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
Key Players: Osama Hawsawi (Al-Hilal, Saudi Arabia), Fahad Al-Muwallad (Levante – Spain), Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr – Saudi Arabia)
The must-win game. The Arabian face-off must end in a win for the Pharaohs if they aim to make it past the group stages and onto the knockout rounds. Saudi Arabia have missed out on the previous two editions of the World Cup, and almost did again this year after drawing with Australia on points in Group B of the qualifiers, but made it to Russia thanks to a better goal difference. The Green Falcons will be looking to replicate their best ever run in 1994 and make it to the Round of 16.
What are our chances of going far this year?
To make it past the group stages, Egypt needs to aim for two wins from three. Realistically speaking, a win against Saudi Arabia is very possible while another against Russia is difficult but still very much likely. A slip against either of these teams must be compensated with a good result against Uruguay, which is why a strong start against the group favorites could prove crucial and relieve much of the pressure for the rest of the campaign.
If Egypt makes it past the group stages, waiting on the other side are most likely either the 2010 World Cup champions and one of the favorites to lift this year’s trophy, Spain, or the 2016 European Champions led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal.
Given the impressive performance from the team in the most recent friendly match against Portugal and the group stage’s opponents, this generation of players has a real chance of going far in this year’s tournament, especially when the first knockout stage opponent may be a familiar foe who was pushed to the limit in order to walk away with a narrow victory over our team.
Plus, we have Salah, provided his injury is healed up.