Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

First tests

Egypt faces Ronaldo-led Portugal and Greece in two friendlies in the run-up to the World Cup, reports Marawan Zayed


The official carrier of the national team to the World Cup; Mo in action

The Egyptian National Football team starts real preparations for the World Cup this week as they face the best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates when Egypt face Portugal on 23 March before meeting Greece on 27 March in two crucial friendlies.

The official carrier of the national team to the World Cup; Mo in action

For the two games Hector Cuper picked the following 28 players: Essam Al-Hadari, Mohamed Al-Shinnawi, Ahmed Al-Shinnawi, Ahmed Fathi, Hossam Ashour, Abdullah Al-Said, Mohamed Abdel-Shafi, Omar Gaber, Mahmoud Kahraba, Mohamed Awad, Ayman Ashraf, Mohamed Magdi, Ahmed Hegazi, Saad Samir, Ramadan Sobhi, Marawan Mohsen, Shikabala, Tarek Hamed, Trezeguet and Momen Zakaria. Seven players in the form of Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Al-Mohamadi, Ahmed Hassan Kouka, Amr Warda, Sam Morsi, Hussein Al-Shahat and Al-Nenni will travel directly to Switzerland instead of meeting up with the rest of the team in Cairo before travelling. As for the group travelling from Cairo, they’ll train Monday 19 March before flying the following day to Zurich.

The national side will stay in a closed camp from 20 March to 28 March where they’ll play the two games. As for the first game against Ronaldo and co, Mohamed Salah will be hoping to lead our national side to a crucial psychological win in any of the two games especially against Portugal as a win against the European champions will give the players the boost needed before the World Cup.

 The two sides have only met twice on the international scene, with the Selecao as they call the Portuguese team claiming victories on both occasions in 1995 and 2005. After initially starting the season in terrible form, Ronaldo is back to his absolute best and is scoring week in week out and even managed to outscore Lionel Messi and Salah in all competitions so far this season. On the other hand, Salah is easily one of the best five players in the world at the moment and will surely be hoping to show Cristiano and his teammates he belongs to the elite, as if he didn’t prove it already this season.

As for Portugal’s squad:
Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Anthony Lopes (Lyon/FRA), Beto (Goeztepe/TUR).

Defenders: Cédric Soares (Southampton/ENG), Joao Cancelo (Inter Milan/ITA), Bruno Alves (Rangers/SCO), José Fonte (Dalian Yifang/CHN), Rolando (Marseille/FRA), Ruben Dias (Benfica), Fabio Coentrao (Sporting Lisbon), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/GER).

Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton/ENG), Joao Moutinho (Monaco/FRA), Adrien Silva (Leicester/ENG), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS), André Gomes (Barcelona/ESP), Joao Mario (West Ham/ENG), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon).

Strikers: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG), Gelson Martins (Sporting lisbon), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas/TUR), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia/ESP), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/ESP), André Silva (AC Milan/ITA).

Portugal will face Holland four days after playing Egypt and their coach Fernando Santos made it clear he’ll treat both games with equal importance and maybe even give extra attention to Egypt as they’re similar to the Moroccan side which is in Portugal’s group in the World Cup.

As for Cuper, he admitted that facing Portugal will give his players a glimpse of what they’re going to see at the World Cup against the likes of Uruguay and hosts Russia and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia. Being underdogs against Portugal and Greece will feel better than being favourites because the pressure is always more on the favourites. Uruguay and Russia are the clear favourites to qualify from our group at the World Cup, which is why Cuper intends to play tough friendly games to test his players in a similar environment.

The Argentine coach has an almost full squad to choose from but Cuper might face some issues when he narrows his pick to his best 11. First, the goalkeeper situation is still unclear with some people calling for Al-Hadari to be dropped after some high profile mistakes in the Saudi league recently but at the same time he’s the most dependable and experienced goalkeeper out of the four picked.

The second issue will be whether to play Sobhi who has been warming the bench for his struggling side Stoke City. Third, no striker in the squad has yet convinced Cuper for the job so far and this upcoming camp will be another chance for the returning Mohsen and the rest of the strikers to show what they can do if any of them wants to make this position his own.

In general, Cuper will have plenty of work to do and plenty of issues to solve but hopefully the games against Portugal and Greece will give him an idea about where his players stand. And let’s hope Salah will get one over Ronaldo as they meet for the first time at the international level.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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