Egypt in Russia 2018
This summer, the mighty Pharaohs will take to the World Cup Finals stage in Russia for the first time in 28 years. It’s only the third time in their history they have made it to the finals, and they have yet to win a match. But how far are they likely to get, and what are the chances of Egypt bringing home the Jules Rimet Trophy come mid-July?
There’s no doubt that the national side is in a rich vein of form, setting a new record in the Africa Cup of Nations last year with their 24th unbeaten game. Add in the recent form of Mohamed Salah, who is scoring for fun at Liverpool in the English Premiership, and you they have more than a glimmer of hope.
It was Salah who fired them dramatically into the finals with his last-minute penalty against the Congo, one of two goals from the striker of the night. Bought for just £34 million by Liverpool last summer, the player’s goal-scoring prowess has already lifted his value to £100 million plus, with some commentators putting his price tag at more like £200 million. If he can stay fit for Russia this summer, Salah could make a big difference for Egypt’s progress.
In contrast to the youthful Salah, at the other end of the pitch, Egypt couldn’t ask for more experience with veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary likely to be the oldest player in World Cup Finals history at 45 years old.
Of course, football isn’t the only tournament happening in Russia this year. There’s still time to organise a trip to Sochi this spring for the European Poker Tour where you can take on the best in the world yourself. Who knows, if you win, you could buy yourself an all-expense paid trip to cheer on the Pharaohs this summer.
Lady Luck has been kind with the hand she has dealt Egypt, as none of the big tournament favorites landing in Group A with them. While Uruguay, at 33-1, and host nation Russia, at 40-1, are ranked higher in the bookmaker’s predictions, Egypt is not that far behind at 100-1. At 500-1, Saudi Arabia completes the group, but are probably just making up the numbers.
If they get a first World Cup Finals win against either Uruguay in Yekaterinburg on June 5th or Russia in Saint Petersburg on June 19th, and the Saudi outsiders on June 25th in Volgograd will be all that stands between Egypt and the Round of 16.
The 1930 and 1950 World Cup winner Uruguay may be the tougher tie, boasting the talents of another former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. He hit the headlines at the last tournament for all the wrong, ear-biting reasons, but he is still a threat. Russia, on the other hand, has only qualified three times since the old Soviet Union era, going out at the group stage each time, and they only qualified this year as hosts.
However, whether they finish second to Uruguay or surprise everyone by topping the group, Egypt’s World Cup campaign only gets harder from there. With both Spain and Portugal in Group B, it looks likely that they would face one of these Iberian teams in the Round of 16. And with Spain boasting a host of world-class stars and odds of 6-1, and Portugal fielding their own unstoppable force at odds of 20-1, it looks likely that, even if they do make it out of the group stage, the Pharaohs’ dream will probably end there. But then, this is a knockout competition, and anything can happen on the day. Just look at what happened to Brazil in their backyard last time around.