First Published: 2017-10-10

Young talent sweeps Egypt into World Cup
Many of Egypt's international football stars, who have steered the team into Russia 2018, were not even born when Pharaohs last played in World Cup.
Middle East Online

Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Salah is the current star man in Egypt.

CAIRO - Many of Egypt's footballers were not even born when the Pharaohs last played in a World Cup, but the new generation of young stars have steered them to Russia 2018.

Mohamed Salah, Ramadan Sobhi, and Ahmed Hegazy -- all 26 or under -- helped end Egypt's 28-year wait by beating Congo 2-1 on Sunday, catapulting them back on to football's biggest stage.

The tens of thousands of fans who packed into the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria had fallen silent in the 87th minute after Congo drew level at 1-1, a scoreline which would have at least delayed the home side's qualification.

But Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Salah, 25, scored his second goal from a penalty deep into injury time, sparking jubilation in the stands and parties on the streets until the early hours.

Salah is the Pharaohs' star man. Known for agility and speed, his transfer in June from Roma to Liverpool was estimated at between 45 and 50 million euros ($52 to $59 million).

"Mohamed Salah is the most important player of the team," said Khaled Baioumy, a sports columnist and a regular guest on television sports programmes.

"The quality of the current team is comparable to that of Western teams. Qualifying for the World Cup attests to that, but the competition will be very tough," said Baioumy.

- Communication is key -

Trained by Argentinean coach Hector Cuper, the team excelled at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, losing in the February final to Cameroon after a seven-year absence from the competition.

Standout 20-year-old Ramadan Sobhi is developing at Premier League side Stoke City, while Mahmoud Hassan, 23, nicknamed Trezeguet for his likeness to the French veteran, and Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, 23, known as Kahraba -- "electricity" in Arabic -- have also shone in recent matches.

However, the team will face tougher challenges next year in Russia, according to Karim Said, a sports analyst on the channel ON Sport, and managing editor of the football website Yallakora.

"To face teams of that quality is totally different from facing African teams," he said, adding the new generation must prove they can form a solid team with a good understanding on the pitch.

Egypt's previous greats, such as Mohamed Aboutrika and Mohamed Barakat, knew each other well having played together for the same club in Cairo, Al Ahly.

But Said warned the current crop of young players, with 44-year-old captain Essam El Hadary in goal, could face communication problems because they play for different teams across Egypt, Europe, and the Gulf.

"The current team does not come from the same club, there is diversity, they are not together," he said.

"And playing among a national selection is completely different from playing in a club where contact is constant."

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison