The whole of Egypt breathed a collective gasp when Jürgen Klopp said that Mohamed Salah’s chances of playing in the World Cup 2018 were in serious doubt. The nation then let out an almighty sigh of relief when Salah confirmed he is confident of playing in Russia as he travels to Spain for specialist treatment on a shoulder injury which forced him off in the Champions League final.
Sergio Ramos has become public enemy number one in Egypt after his challenge which saw Salah land awkwardly. If Spain and Egypt finish first and second in their groups, the two will meet in a hotly contested, and no doubt hostile, round-of-16 tie.
As well as waiting on the fitness of Salah, Egypt will also hope that Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny recovers from an ankle ligament injury which ended his season in late April. The midfielder is expected to be fit in time for the finals but faces a challenge to get back to his best form.
Egypt vs Uruguay – 13:00, Thursday 15 June
Russia vs Egypt – 19:00, Tuesday 19 June
Saudi Arabia vs Egypt – 15:00, Monday 25 June
Mohamed Salah: Is there much to say about Mohamed Salah that has not already been written? His form for Liverpool in the Premier League and the Champions League has some touting him as the player to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s dominance of the Ballon d’Or, and you feel an impressive performance at the World Cup will not do that any harm at all. If he arrives in Russia fully fit and turns it on in the way he has in the last 12 months, he could take Egypt to new heights by qualifying from their group for the first time.
Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’: Kouka is a very talented and emotional striker who is currently impressing in Portugal with Braga. His career at the Portuguese club accelerated when he hit good form in the Europa League and scored a memorable chipped goal over Marseille’s Steve Mandanda then burst into tears, later saying he dedicated the goal to his father who died a day earlier.
Essam El-Hadard: Having made his international debut in 1996, Essam El-Hadard, 45, is poised to become the oldest player to play in the World Cup, taking the acclaim away from Columbia’s Faryd Mondragon who was 43 when he last played in a World Cup. “I am old. It’s a fact…my age is just a number, hidden in my passport,” says the Al-Taawoun goalkeeper who will captain Egypt at this summer’s tournament.
Mahmoud Hassan ‘Trezeguet’: Having made a name for himself at Anderlecht thanks to his powerful right foot, Trezeguet has reportedly attracted interest from several Premier League clubs. The 22-year-old is a talented and nimble left winger who has a handy habit of cutting onto his right foot and scoring from a range of distances. Hassan was an important part of Egypt’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations squad but is yet to score a competitive goal for the first team in his 18 caps.
How did they get here?
Egypt qualified comfortably from their group ahead of Uganda, Ghana and Congo. It may not come as a surprise that Salah scored in four of their six matches as they topped the table by four points, losing just one game.
The 2017 African Cup of Nations runners up are no push overs on the International stage and bring with them to the World Cup a squad filled with some quality. If Salah can play at his best, or even short of it, there is no reason why Egypt should fail to get out Group A. In the last 16 it is highly likely that Egypt will play either Spain or Portugal, which will be a huge test for them in their third ever World Cup finals.
Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun, Saudi Arabia), 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 Fateh, Saudi Arabia) Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr (both West Bromwich Albion, England), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa, England), Karim Hafez (RC Lens, France), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC, USA), Amro Tarek (Orlando City, USA);
Midfielders: Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Abdel Aziz (Zamalek), Shikabala (Al Raed, Saudi Arabia), Abdallah Said (KuPS, Finland), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic, England), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England), Kahraba (Al Ittihad, Saudi Arabia), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City, England), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa, Turkey), Amr Warda (Atromitos, Greece);
Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Ahmed Gomaa (Al Masry), Kouka (SC Braga, Portugal), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, England).