Group A: Can Mo Salah recover to inspire Egypt?

If the Liverpool striker brings his form to Russia there could be tears of joy in Cairo

Egypt (200-1)

Who are they?

Few will forget the scenes captured in Cairo when Egypt qualified for the World Cup last October thanks to a dramatic late penalty from Mo Salah which sealed a win over Congo. The football-mad nation had not reached the finals since 1990 (who could forget that memorable 0-0 draw with Ireland?).

Egypt are notoriously hard to break down having conceded more than one goal on just two occasions in their last 32 games and they are also well used to success with a record seven African Cup of Nations titles to their name. They will certainly fancy their chances in this group.

World Cup moment

There aren’t too many to choose from here for a side that have never been able to translate their continental success to the global stage. Interestingly, they were due to compete in the first ever World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 but never made it after their ship was delayed by heavy storms. They have only competed twice since, going out at the earliest possible stage in both 1934 and 1990.

How did they get here?

Qualifying went right down to the wire for the Egyptians with that dramatic win over Congo sealing top spot in their group ahead of Uganda. As Salah stepped up to take the penalty in the 94th minute he had the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as well as a 28-year barren World Cup qualifying spell but he made no mistake as he found the net and sparked wild scenes of jubilation around the North African country.


The gaffer

Argentinean coach Hector Cúper has been criticised in some quarters for his defensive style but what he’s done is certainly make Egypt difficult to break down. Counter-attack is his weapon of choice and, with Salah up front, they can certainly do that effectively.

The main man

While comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are farcical after just one good season, there’s no arguing that Mo Salah has lit up the Premier League and Champions League this season with scintillating goalscoring form. While the 25-year-old does not captain the side the expectations very much sit on his shoulders and this year he’s reached deity status around the country. But with serious question marks hanging over his availability following the dislocated shoulder suffered in the Champions League final it remains to be seen what sort of impact he will have.

The one to watch

Mahmoud Hassan is a 23-year-old winger from Anderlecht who is known simply as Trézéguet. Known for his pace and direct running he fits perfectly into Cúper’s counter-attacking style. A special mention goes out to captain and goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary who, at 45 years of age, is set to become the oldest player ever to play at a World Cup.

The verdict

If Salah is fit, it should be enough to get Egypt out of this group but, as is the case with whoever the two teams are to progress from Group A, they will find their paths blocked by Spain or Portugal in the second round.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El Shennawy (Al Ahly)

Defenders: Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion), Saad Samir (Al Ahly)

Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly Jeddah), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad Jeddah), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Shikabala (Al Raed), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos)

Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)