Mohamed Salah’s Egypt has made it to the FIFA World Cup after 28 long years while the hosts Russia will be desperate to make something of the home advantage and cause a few upsets.
After Portugal shocked the world by winning Euro 2016….
Egypt (FIFA Ranking 45th)
World Cup History
Qualifying for the World Cup after 28 years, Egypt qualified for the World Cup twice before in the years of 1934 and 1990 respectively. Being one of the underdogs, Egypt was unable to make any significant impact in both previous appearances as they were forced out in the group stage.
How They Qualified
Failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, Egypt came in strong in the qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup with the in-form superstar Mohamed Salah. They lost 1-0 against Chad in the 1st leg but made a strong comeback to defeat them 4-1 on aggregate while having managed a score line of 1-1 on aggregate against Uganda and defeating Congo and Ghana with aggregate scores of 4-2 and 3-1 respectively.
The most exciting moment for Egypt in the qualifiers would undoubtedly be when Mohamed Salah stepped up and grabbed a late winner through a penalty in the 94th minute against Congo.
In addition to the World Cup Qualifiers, Egypt also played two international friendlies against Portugal, which resulted in a score line of 2-1 to Portugal, and Greece, where they lost 1-0.
Manager & Playing Style
Hector Cuper, former Valencia and Internazionale coach took charge of the Pharaohs in March 2015 and led them to their first World Cup appearance since 1990 by topping the African zone in the qualifiers. He also managed to lead the team to the finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 2017.
The Argentine prefers a more conservative style of football as his team concentrates more on their defense at first and then uses any counter attacking opportunities for goal scoring.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Egypt’s biggest strength right now is undoubtedly Mohamed Salah, who is probably in the best form of his career right now, finishing as the highest goal scorer of the English Premier League representing Liverpool in the 2017/18 season.
On the other hand, Egypt will also be equipped with their long standing experienced goalkeeper Essam El Hadary to make sure things will be controlled within the goal posts.
It is indeed no doubt that Salah will be a main target for other defenses and if in that case Salah fails to find a way to break through Egypt will be left with less hope as they lack any other star player of his caliber to make a difference.
At the same time, Mohamed Elneny’s injury concerns are a big blow to the Egyptian outfit if it hampers his performance in the World Cup.
Mohamed Salah, the man who has a chance of ending the Messi-Ronaldo Ballon d’or domination, will be Egypt’s key player. Egypt does not execute a very attacking style of play but if Salah is able to conjure some magic, they may very well stand a chance of progressing past the group stage.
Goalkeepers: Essam El-Hadary, Mohamed El-Shennawy, Sherif Ekramy
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf, Mohamed Abdel Shafy, Ahmed Hegazi, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Elmohamady, Omar Gaber, Mahmoud Hamdy
Midfielders: Tarek Hamed, Mahmoud Abdel-Razik Shikabala, Abdallah El-Said, Sam Morsy, Mohamed Elneny, Ramadan Sobhi, Mahmoud Trezeguet, Amr Warda, Mohamed Salah
Forwards: Marwan Mohsen, Mahmoud Kahraba
Russia (FIFA Ranking 70th)
World Cup History
Russia has participated in 3 FIFA World Cups since its independence in 1991. Their first participation in a World Cup was in 1994 and they achieved 18th place.
In 1946 the Soviet Union was accepted by FIFA and played there first World Cup in Sweden 1958. The Soviet Union represented 15 Socialist republics and various Football Federations. The Soviet Union national football team played in 7 World Cups. Their best performance was reaching 4th place in England 1966 and entered the quarter finals in 1958, 1962 & 1970.
However Soviet football was dissolved in 1991 when Belarus, Russia and Ukraine declared independence under the Belavezha Accords.
How They Qualified
The poorest team in the Russian World Cup history according to critics, won automatic qualification to the FIFA World Cup 2018 as hosts.
The 2017 Confederations Cup was therefore the tournament where they were able to test their abilities but failed in their attempts as they lost to Mexico and Portugal even though they managed to bag a winner against New Zealand. Russia has played 19 matches since Euro 2016 and managed to win only six of them.
Coach & Playing Style
Stanislav Cherchesov, 54 years of age, was appointed as the coach of Russia in 2016 on a two-year contract. He has under his belt a considerable amount of playing experience for Spartak Moscow, coaching experience at Spartak, Dynamo and Legia Warsaw in Poland.
Cherchesov prefers a defensive game with high pressing and to suit this style of play he has adopted rather tough training routines. We could expect Russia to go into the World Cup with a formation consisting of 5 defenders, but it could change to a traditional 4-4-2 formation after having two of their regular center backs being sidelined due to long term injuries.
Strengths & Weaknesses
It is a hard question to answer as to if Russia possess any real strengths in their outfit for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, the trio of Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin and Fedor Smolov could be the biggest strength in the side during quick transitions from defense to attack which have been practiced by Stanislav Cherchesov.
Their biggest weakness could be mentioned as the lack of expertise in defense. Being a defensive side, being forced to have two of their regular center backs sidelined due to long term injuries could cost the Russian outfit experience in the center of the defense when they need it the most.
Fedor Smolov, aged 28 is probably the man to watch out for in the Russian outfit. The striker has developed his talents over the years to be the country’s leading striker by becoming the highest goal scorer in the Russian Premier League for two consecutive seasons.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Andrey Lunev
Defenders: Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Andrey Semenov, Igor Smolnikov, Mario Fernandes, Sergey Ignashevich
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinskiy, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin, Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Samedov, Anton Miranchuk, Denis Cheryshev
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba, Alexsey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov