Five talking points from Egypt's disappointing start to the African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign, which saw them draw 1-1 at home to Kenya before being held to a goalless stalemate at Comoros.
No Salah, no party
Egypt's Mohamed Salah in action with Guinea's Issiaga Sylla (Photo: REUTERS)
The absence of Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah, who is nursing an ankle injury, had a drastic effect on Egypt during their opening games. The Pharaohs clearly missed the spark and efficiency of their talisman, whose talent and blistering pace help the team unlock opposing defences. The 27-year winger scored 41 goals in 67 games to become Egypt's third best scorer.
Without Salah, Egypt scored one goal in the two games, which came courtesy of a dreadful defensive mistake which forward Mahmoud Kahraba made the most of.
"Our performance will improve when Salah returns to the squad," coach Hossam El-Badry said after the Kenya game.
Egypt's Abdallah El Said in action (Photo: REUTERS)
Egypt were unlucky to lose a number of key players, such as veteran playmaker Abdallah El-Said who was part of a group of Pyramids FC players who were the subject of a disciplinary action from El-Badry after the club were late in releasing them.
The U23 national team players weren't also able to join the team as they feature in the U23 Nations Cup, most notably winger Ramadan Sobhi and striker Mostafa Mohamed who are enjoying a rich vein of form in the tournament, which qualifies for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Injuries also sidelined striker Ahmed 'Kouka' Hassan, with Egypt forced to rely on winger Kahraba as a lone frontman.
Ahly's promising midfielder Hamdi Fathi, who was expected to shine with the Pharaohs, was also ruled out after tearing a knee ligament just before the Kenya match.
Trezeguet couldn't meet expectations
Soccer Football - International Friendly - Egypt v Tanzania - Borg El Arab, Alexandria, Egypt - June 13, 2019, Egypt's Trezeguet in action with Tanzania's Hassan Ramadhani (REUTERS)
Aston Villa's Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan didn't meet expectations despite some fine displays in recent Premier League games. The winger, whose typical marauding runs down the flank were much needed, was guilty of some glaring misses. He failed to beat the Comoros keeper in a one-on-one situation despite neatly controlling a through ball, sending a low shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Soccer Football - African Nations Cup 2021 Qualifier - Egypt v Kenya - Borg El Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt - November 14, 2019, Kenya's Michael Olunga celebrates scoring their first goal with Kenneth Muguna as Egypt's Ahmed Hegazy and Mahmoud Alaa look dejected REUTERS
Egypt's defence looked porous in the two matches, committing many mistakes including a costly one against Kenya when a poor back pass from Mohamed Elneny and the inability of right-back Ahmed Fathi to keep the ball under his control resulted in an equaliser for the visitors. The only positive defensive aspect was the performance of keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who pulled off some fine saves against Kenya and Comoros.
El-Badry under pressure
Soccer Football - African Nations Cup 2021 Qualifier - Egypt v Kenya - Borg El Arab Stadium, Alexandria, Egypt - November 14, 2019 Egypt coach Hossam El Badry REUTERS
Egypt coach El-Badry is now under pressure after only four matches in charge of the team. Knives are sharpened as Egypt could only score three goals in four matches against unfancied opponents -- Liberia, Botswana, Kenya and Comoros.
But he still have 10 months before the fourth round of the 2021 Nations Cup qualifiers to reshuffle the squad and fill the voids as Egypt can't afford to miss out on a place in a tournament they won a record seven times.
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