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Monday, 20 August 2018

Preview: Egypt aim to deflect criticism in last pre-World Cup friendly against Belgium

Ahram Online , Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Jun 2018
Egypt
Colombia national football team midfielder Johan Mojica (L) fights for the ball with Egypt national team midfielder Sam Morsy (R) during the international friendly football match between Egypt and Colombia at "Atleti Azzurri d'Italia Stadium" in Bergamo on June 1, 2018 AFP
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Egypt will be keen to allay worries over their form ahead of the World Cup when they meet Belgium in another high-profile friendly in Brussels on Wednesday.

The Pharaohs have not won any game since their dramatic 2-1 victory at home to Congo last October, which lifted them to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990.

They played out a 1-1 draw away to Ghana in a meaningless qualifier before slumping to 2-1 and 1-0 losses to Portugal and Greece respectively in two friendly matches in March.

Egypt also appeared lackluster in a 1-1 draw with modest Kuwait in a World Cup warm-up last month before surviving a Colombia onslaught to hold their illustrious opponents to a 0-0 stalemate in the Italian city of Bergamo last Saturday.

The team’s Argentinean coach Hector Cuper has come under fire from many for Egypt’s struggle to keep possession or launch any of their trademark counter attacks against Colombia.

Some angry fans said on social media that Cuper’s “negative strategies” will do Egypt no favours in their quest to advance from Group A, which includes South American powerhouses Uruguay, hosts Russia and Arab Gulf side Saudi Arabia.

It seems that Egypt would also find it difficult to cope with the absence of star forward Mohamed Salah, who is facing a race against time to be fit for the opening World Cup clash against Uruguay on 15 June.

“Salah is recovering well from the injury. According to the information I got, he may be fit for the game against Uruguay,” Cuper told a news conference on Tuesday.

“But all of our players are experienced and have quality. Although Salah is very important to us, football remains a collective game and we have to believe in that; and accordingly we will not alter our strategy because of the absence of any player.”

Cuper announced Egypt’s 23-man World Cup squad on Monday, surprising observers with his decision to include only one out-and-out striker in Ahly’s Marwan Mohsen.  

Egypt crushed Belgium 4-0 the last time they met in a friendly game in February 2015.

But Belgium are now a much different side, boasting some of the world’s greats such as Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne. They played out a 0-0 draw with European champions Portugal in their previous friendly on Saturday.

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

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