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World Cup 2018: Out of Africa – Egypt


Population: 95.21 million
FIFA World Ranking: 46th

Did you know?
When an Ancient Egyptian’s cat died, they would signify their mourning by shaving their eyebrows.

Egypt's current goalkeeper and captain Essam El-Hadary is in line to make history as the oldest ever player to play in the World Cup, at the age of 45.

World Cup appearances
Egypt were the first African team to play in the World Cup finals, in 1934. However, their 56-year wait for their next competition, in 1990, is the longest in World Cup history. To add insult to injury, they wouldn't even get to travel anywhere new – both competitions were held in Italy.

Star player: Mo Salah
Who else? The PFA Players’ Player of the Year has as much regard for the sanctity of historic records as he has had for the mental and physical wellbeing of opposition defenders this season. Salah has equalled the single-season goal record, joining Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez, and overtaken Didier Drogba as the highest-scoring African in a season. He is four Liverpool goals away from Ian Rush’s all-competition record of 47. The numbers are breath-taking, as is their unexpectedness – at around £34 million, Salah cost one-fifth of a Phillipe Coutinho, and his brief spell at Chelsea offered few clues to his true potential.

Player to watch: Ramadan Sobhi
There are currently five Egyptians in England’s top flight, one of whom has been given the perilous title of the new Mohamed Aboutrika. To be handed the mantle of the new anything in football is generally an express ticket to a spluttering non-starter of a career, but 21-year-old Ramadan Sobhi shares more than a few similarities with the man regarded as one of history’s great African footballers. His ball control, flair and rangy silhouette have marked him out as something special, and he has shown flashes of the quality that earned him a £5m transfer to Stoke from Al-Ahly in 2016.

Manager: Hector Cuper
Egypt’s first World Cup since 1990 will be important for the team, certainly, but for the man on the sidelines too. Excellent spells with Mallorca, Valencia and Internazionale in the late 90s have been overshadowed by a meandering career that has taken Hector Cuper to Georgia, Greece, Turkey and Dubai. An admirer of English football, specifically the regimented 4-4-2 of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, his sense of pragmatism (Egypt rarely score more than once in a match) may stifle his star man’s attacking potential. However, it has yielded results – Cuper took the team to the AFCON finals in his first year in charge.

Stay tuned for the rest of our World Cup special feature. Tomorrow we profile another African country competing in football's biggest tournament.

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