The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Egypt

Egypt National Team

Egypt

The Pharaohs

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Egypt

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 5-1-2
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 46th
World Cup 2014 Finish – DNQ
Russia 2018 Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Formation – 4-2-3-1
Strengths – Low expectations, Attack, Cuper effect
Weaknesses – Depth, no plan “B”
Major Threats – Mohamed Salah, Trezeguet

Egypt is flying to Russia with the entirety of their hopes firmly on the shoulders of Mohamed Salah. Despite Salah stealing the headlines during qualifying and throughout Liverpool’s season, we’ve seen time and again that it takes far more than just one extraordinary talent to find success at the international level. If there’s a team that you want to find to make you the most intelligent person in the room when they play, Egypt fits the bill perfectly.
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Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The EFA might be the sole federation dealing with the most optimistic of expectations while also acknowledging with the possibility of an early group exit being perfectly acceptable, such is the might of Mo Salah’s current mystique. The world wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Salah catch fire, dash the hopes of either Russia or Uruguay, and see Egypt march their way into the knockout stages. However, a tweak to Salah’s shoulder means Egypt could march their way out of Russia before they even make their way to their last group stage match v Saudi Arabia. No matter what happens, this group has already made their country really happy by getting to the Mundial (they were last there in 1990) and can only add to the mystique that Salah has given himself over the last season.


DEFENSE:

Egypt’s first choice keeper, despite being 45, will be seen as the backbone of the defense. Essam El-Hadary is even quoted as saying that his age is, “just a number on a paper.” Despite 157 caps, El Hadary hasn’t ever been quite known for his strength on crosses, and Egypt has conceded more goals from crosses than they would like, an issue we will discuss more about later.

The central defensive pairing for Egypt will likely be the West Brom players Ali Gabr and Ahmed Hegazi. Despite possessing an average height of 6’3″, the last 18 goals conceded by Egypt involved 13 from crosses. During the group stage, expect to see Russia attempt to exploit this issue, though Uruguay and Saudi Arabia will still try and attack primarily down the middle. If Egypt lose to Russia, they may be up against the cosh going forward. However, this could be a massive issue even if Egypt escapes the group and has to encounter a squad that is capable of exploiting such a glaring defensive issue.

The left side of the defense will probably see Mohamed Abdel-Shafy get the start, though Karim Hafez would have been the preferred starter if he hadn’t suffered an ankle injury earlier in the year. Abdel-Shafy isn’t short on experience, but at a position where speed kills, the Egyptian left back is on the wrong side of 30 to be handling some of the fastest wingers in the game.We will likely see Ahmed Fathy at right back, but the veteran vice-captain for Egypt also suffers from being a bit long in the tooth. Why play two aging vets on the wings? Because the defense drops down to 11 caps, 5 caps, and 1 cap for the possible replacements, that’s a problem not exactly bestowing a ton of confidence.

MIDFIELD

Despite possessing what some will see as the ultimate attacking weapon in Mo Salah, Egypt tends to approach the game in a fairly defensive manner which means there’s a lot of sitting back and the defense and midfield have a major role to play with this style. The reason Egypt doesn’t allow a lot of goals is because of their protection in front of the back-line. Look for Mohamed Elneny and Tarek Hamed to sit deep and provide the protection that has allowed Egypt to reach this point. Look for Sam Morsy to possibly get a shot before the tournament ends, especially if a bit of a more “heavy-handed” approach is needed. Arsenal will be hoping that Elneny has quite a tournament and starts to look like a player ready to excel week in and week out in the Premier League.

The three pronged midfield that sits in front on the two DMs will be comprised of Mahmoud Hassan “Trezeguet,” (so named because of his similar appearance to the French striker), Abdallah El Said, and Mohamed Salah. Trezeguet will spend most of his time on the left, and might be Egypt’s best non-Salah player to make a splash and make the transfer window very interesting after Russia. With a great season in Turkey helping Hassan leapfrog into the tournament, it’s likely that this is the player that Egypt may look to in order to lessen Salah’s goal pressure.

Abdallah El Said will be the main creative force in this squad, sitting right behind the lone striker and trying to unlock the defense. Said also happens to be the second highest scorer in this Egypt squad (6 goals). If you’re a betting person, it’s actually more likely that Said grabs a goal than the Egyptian strikers. We’ll even say this, if Said scores, they make it through the group but if he doesn’t score then Egypt gets bounced before the knockout rounds.

Lining up on the right side of the midfield will be Mohamed Salah. Already fourth in Egypt’s all-time scoring charts, Salah means as much to Egypt’s squad mentally as he does in the actual scoreline. Without the Liverpool attacker, the belief completely crashes and burns. However, much the same way as when the group qualified, Salah brings hope that anything is possible for this group. It’s odd having a squad that isn’t attached to Messi having such an emphasis put on one player, but the disparity and difference between the attack with and without Salah is a gulf almost too wide to explain. With Salah, this is a World Cup squad. Without, they’re at the bottom of their qualifying group.

Mo Salah

Egypt’s Mo Salah

STRIKERS

While it may seem painfully obvious to point out, this entire section of the pitch will rest firmly on Mohamed Salah. Egypt has never been a high scoring outfit, not a single match on their resume in the last three years has seen Egypt score over two goals. The story doesn’t get much better from any area of the pitch with Egypt traveling to Russia with only one player that has ever scored more than six goals for their country. Who, you ask? Of course, Salah. With 33 goals in 57 appearances, it should be abundantly clear why the entirety of Egypt was devastated when Salah went down in the Champions League Final. It all translates, obviously and painfully, to Egypt needing Salah on the pitch in order to have any sort of attacking potency.

The other two strikers heading to Russia with Egypt are Marwan Mohsen and Kahraba. While their goal returns aren’t awful, these two attackers have only ever scored 7 total goals between themselves. Considering the formation that Egypt typically employ, Mohsen will probably get the nod to lead the line of the 4-2-3-1. Egypt typically tries to keep scores low and snag one or two goals themselves, so it wouldn’t be the first instinct to toss on Kahraba and Mohsen at the same time, but a desperate last group game or knockout stage closing period could see the Pharaohs go “all in” on their attack.

GAME by GAME (v Uruguay, v Russia, v Saudi Arabia)

*Keys to Uruguay game: Uruguay will be hoping that this isn’t a massive stumbling block on their way out the group, and Egpyt hasn’t faced a competitive attack on this scale in a while. This game will 100% be determined by whether Egypt can keep Uruguay from scoring more than two goals, and the simple fact that Egypt hasn’t scored more than two goals in a fixture for over two years. However, Uruguay will be looking to use this game as a statement and to get the ball rolling towards a deep tournament run. Add in that Egypt’s key piece to scoring will be playing in his first match since the Champions League Final (he may not even be fit for this game), and it doesn’t bode well for Egypt being able to get their World Cup campaign of to a great start.
Prediction: Uruguay steamrolls Egypt 4-1, but Salah gets off the mark early.

*Keys to Russia game: The host nation will not want to be remembered as a team that received automatic qualification and then got bounced at the group stage, but Egypt will be needing to get points against Russia in order to find their way out of the group. Russia’s defense and keeper are always liable for a defensive breakdown that leads to a goal in nearly every fixture, and Egypt is very capable of keeping scores low. Egypt’s tendency to keep teams under two goals should bode well for the Pharaohs sneaking through this game and actually finding themselves in position to exit the group.
Prediction: Egypt wins either 1-0 or 2-1 and puts Russia in a horrible position

*Keys to Saudi Arabia game: Egypt’s best chance at three points within the group comes with their last group stage game against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has not had the greatest build up to the World Cup, but Egypt would underestimate them at their own peril. A draw with Ukraine, victories against Greece and Algeria, and a close result with Italy shows that Saudi Arabia has as much a chance as Egypt does to play spoiler within this group. However, both of these teams have one player that they depend on for all of their goals, meaning it is entirely possible that this game ends in an incredibly boring 0-0.
Prediction: Either 5-4 Egypt’s way, or 0-0, one of the two…

Egypt 23

Egypt World Cup Squad

Here’s the Egyptian Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), and Mohamed El Shenawy (Al Ahly)

DEFENDERS (9): Ali Gabr (West Bromwich Albion), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Ahmed Fathy (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Mohamed Abdel Shafy (Al Fateh), El Wensh (Zamalek), and Saad Samir (Al Ahly)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Shikabala (Al Raed), Abdallah Said (KuPS), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa), and Amr Warda (Atromitos)

STRIKERS (3): Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), and Kahraba (Al Ittihad)

Piece by Andrew McCole, frequent Center Circle writer, boot prince, and never walking alone at Liverpool FC.

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle!

 

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