Egypt in World Cup Group A: Lame Hosts, Kindred & A Blue Sky

Monday 4th December , 2017 10:19 am
The Pharoahs of Egypt (Image credit: Ola Photography)
The Pharoahs of Egypt (Image credit: Ola Photography)

Following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw on December 1, freelance football writer, Sammie Frimpong, analyses each of the groups the five African teams were placed in and he begins with the Pharoahs of Egypt.

For all their continental dominance, Egypt’s record at global level is pretty pathetic.

Their second appearance at the FIFA World Cup came 56 years after their first, their third — at Russia 2018 — only following nearly three decades later.

On neither previous occasion has Egypt advanced past the first round, and that’s the sort of unflattering history Argentine trainer Hector Cuper and his charges will seek to improve when they line up for the event next June.

With the competition handed them in Group A, the Pharaohs’ quest should get off to a fairly good start. Among others, they’ll have hosts Russia to deal with, a challenge that should have been Egypt’s biggest at the showpiece.

But while the Russians may have all the perks that come with playing before their own, their dismal display at this year’s FIFA Confederations Cup suggested those comforts might not matter much.

The lowest-ranked team in the field, their threat should be easily snuffed out by Egypt.

Two places above the Sbornaya on the FIFA rankings are Saudi Arabia (63), another of Egypt’s not-so-strong group-mates.

One of a record four Arab nations at the coming World Cup — a quartet Egypt themselves proudly belong to — the Green Falcons have only ever been to four FIFA World Cups in the past, missing the last two, and making it beyond the group phase just once (at USA ‘94).

They may have recently appointed Argentina-born Juan Antonio Pizzi as boss but, surely, not even he — the man who famously guided Chile to Copa America Centenario triumph last year and the FIFA Confederations Cup final earlier in 2017 but failed to get La Roja to the coming World Cup — could transform them within the next seven months into world-beaters, could he?

As an added boost, Egypt would be inspired by the fact that they are on record to have handed the Saudis their heaviest ever loss (back when the North Africans were known as the United Arab Republic), a 13-0 thrashing in September 1961.

Those two relatively kind games would come after an opener against two-time champions Uruguay in Yekaterinburg that would certainly test Egypt’s resolve.

It isn’t just on the pitch that Egypt will have to prove good enough to deal with Uruguay’s terrifying attacking force, but off it as well, as Cuper would come up against experienced South American counterpart Oscar Tabarez — currently in his 12th straight year at the helm of La Celeste — tactically.

Cuper himself, a veteran of two UEFA Champions League finals, isn’t new to bright lights, and would be keen to count on his own rich experience and players — in-form Liverpool star Mohamed Salah the leading man — to hold his own.

“We will attempt to achieve the best possible results and we will give our maximum,” Cuper told TyC Sports after the draw.

“We have a team that depends on working, humility and dealing with reality. We are aware of the limit of our abilities. We will seek the best course in order to win and we will compete in the best way.”

He couldn’t have been more forthright: be their group tough or not, Egypt could only show up at their best if they are to succeed in making a mark at that stage and beyond.