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World Cup 2018: Egypt

 

Egypt will appear in their first World Cup in 28 years. The last time the Egyptians played in the tournament was Italia 1990.

This year’s appearance will mark just the third time Egypt have made the finals.

A fortunate draw in Group A against Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay means Egypt have the opportunity to reach the round of 16 for the first time ever. Despite being Africa’s most successful national team in continental competitions, Egypt have never been able to translate that success over to the World Cup stage.

Star player Mohamed Salah was the driving force for Egypt’s World Cup qualification. His dramatic two goal performance against Congo sent the national team to the World Cup and a country into hysterics.

A shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final looked to have ended Salah’s chances of playing at the tournament. However, the Egyptian ace has been working hard to rehab the injury. The national team will do everything it can to get Salah into the team. It looks likely that he will start Egypt’s World Cup opener on June 15 against Uruguay.

Egypt have been in poor form of late. The team hasn’t won a game since qualifying for the World Cup in October 2018. Hector Cuper’s team is winless in six matches and most recently lost 3-0 to Belgium in a World Cup warm-up friendly. The team didn’t have Salah available, and just like Liverpool last term, the Pharoahs rely heavily on the forward. Salah featured in just one Egypt friendly following the national team’s qualification for the World Cup. The team’s hopes of making the round of 16 will rest on his injured shoulder.

Fortunately, Egypt’s chances of qualifying are good. Russia are in poor form as well having gone winless in their World Cup tune-up matches. Saudi Arabia lost their three World Cup warm-up games, giving up seven goals and scoring just twice. Uruguay are expected to top the group and they are the only one of the four to be in-form.

 

Nine players called-up by Cuper play football outside of Africa or the Middle East. The nine foreign-based players will bring experience to the side. However, with so many players coming from African and Middle Eastern football leagues, Egypt will have weaknesses on the pitch and bench. Currently ranked 35th in the world, Egypt are still ranked higher than both Russia and Saudi Arabia.

 

Egypt’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages will come down to Salah’s fitness. If he can play all three group matches, the team could finish second behind Uruguay. However, if Salah isn’t able to play to his fullest, Egypt will struggle in the group stage.