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Preview: Egypt to kick off World Cup preparation with Kuwait game

Karim Farouk , Thursday 24 May 2018
Sobhi
Egypt's Ramadan Sobhi in action with Greece's Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (Reuters)
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Egypt will be playing Kuwait on Friday as they kick off their final preparation stage for the 2018 World Cup, which will will be held next month in Russia.

Kuwait is the first of three games for Egypt ahead of the world's most prestigious football tournament, as the Pharaohs will take on Colombia on 1 June in Bergamo, Italy, then Belgium on 6 June in Brussels before flying to Russia.

Egypt has announced a 29-man provisional squad for the tournament and coach Hector Cuper has decided to take them all to Kuwait.

Kuwait has not qualified for the World Cup, but the Argentinean tactician sees the match as an important step in the team’s preparation.

"I chose to play with teams similar to the ones that we will face at the World Cup. I want to test some tactics and some players before announcing my final 23-man list," Cuper told a presser on Thursday.

The seven-time African Champions, who have reached the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, have been placed in Group A alongside hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.

A no-Salah test

Egypt will be without the team's top scorer and its inspiration Mohamed Salah, who will be playing in the UEFA Champions League final with Liverpool against Real Madrid on Saturday.

It is a good opportunity for Cuper to test the team's strength without their most lethal weapon. The Argentinean has already rested Salah before, during last March’s game against Greece, when the team suffered a 1-0 defeat.

Cuper said he's is trying to find alternatives, whether in his tactics or personnel. Greece-based Amr Warda has been in flamboyant form this season and could be a good choice on the right flank.

Mahmoud Trezeguet could also be deployed on the right flank, giving the Stoke City winger Ramadan Sobhi a chance to start on the left.

Also Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny – who sustained an ankle injury a few weeks ago – will be rested from this game to have some time to fully recover.

Ramadan fasting

The Kuwait game also comes as the first test during the holy month of Ramadan, and will be a good opportunity for Cuper to see the levels of his team’s strengths, as the players have to fast for almost 16 hours a day.

Egypt captain Essam El-Hadary said on Thursday that team will meet to decide on whether they will fast during the current preparation camp.

Egyptian Football Association president Hany Abo Rida said that the national team hired a special nutritionist to help the players ahead of the World Cup.

"It will be tough for them because of the long hours of fasting, but most of the players are determined to fast and we are trying to help them," Abo Rida said.

Muslims are obligated to abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset during Ramadan, but exceptions are allowed in cases of illnesses or travel.

The holy moth started on 17 May in most nations and is expected to end on 15 June.

Keepers' trials

Cuper has also chosen four keepers – Essam El-Hadary, Sherif Ekramy, Mohamed El-Shennawi and Mohamed Awad – for the 29-man list but one of them will be dropped from the final squad.

Ahly keeper Ekramy has been included for the first time since November 2017, following the injury of Zamalek keeper Ahmed El-Shennawi.

“It is a position that needs experience and Ekramy has plenty of it. He is in good form right now,” goalkeeping coach Ahmed Nagi has said.

Ekramy is likely to make it to the final squad alongside with veteran goalie El-Hadary, while El-Shennawi and Awad, who each have just one international appearance, will battle for the third spot. The Kuwait game might be a decider for them.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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