Egypt Pharaohs waited for a long time to be back at the World Cup. The record seven-time African champions had to watch on the sidelines since last qualifying in 1990.
The team hit new lows recently, failing to even qualify for the African Cup of Nations – a tournament they once dominated – from 2012-15. They are back now, reaching the final of this year’s tournament and following that up with a long-awaited World Cup return.
Egypt enters the 2018 World Cup with high expectations, mostly because of the global emergence of superstar Mohamed Salah. Led by the heavily-experienced Argentine manager Hector Cuper, the Pharaohs are in a manageable group (Group A) and aren’t just happy to be in Russia. They are there to make a name for their country on the biggest stage of the sport.
World Cup appearances: Three
Best finish: First round and 13th place in 1934
Last World Cup: 1990
Provisional squad (will be trimmed to 23 for the World Cup):
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).
Mohamed Salah, the Premier League’s top player this season. The former Roma star when from a pretty well-known player to a household name with his amazing performances for Liverpool this season, scoring over 40 goals and guiding the team to the Champions League final. He’s far and away the team’s best player and will be one of the most talked about stars entering the tournament. He’s become a prolific goalscorer and potential Ballon d’Or contender who could be alongside Cristiano Ronalo and Lionel Messi at the next gala.
After being injured in the Champions League final with Liverpool, Salah’s tournament participation was in doubt with a shoulder injury. It looked like it would be a stretch for him to make the tournament, but he tweeted that he’s confident he’ll participate.The Egyptian football federation have given assurance Salah is fit for the World Cup.
Player to watch
Omar Gaber. The 26-year-old right back and midfielder is currently on loan at MLS side Los Angeles FC from Swiss giants Basel. He’s been capped over 20 times for Egypt and is a player of quality. He’s got speed to get down the flank and could be a big piece of what Egypt tries to do on the counter-attack.
Salah is, at this moment, one of the best players in the world. As he goes, so do the Pharaohs. This team should get three points against Saudi Arabia, and if they can get a win against Russia, they’ll be through. Trying to get a result against Uruguay will be tough, but a point there in the opener will set this team up nicely to make it to the knockout stage.