Egypt's World Cup player profiles: Ali Gabr, the towering defender

Omar Zaazou , Wednesday 13 Jun 2018,
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Ali Gabr

A 6 ft 3 center-back, Ali Gabr has always seemed the type of defender Egypt manager Hector Cuper has been looking for.

Capable of commanding his own box alongside towering center-back Ahmed Hegazi, the pair has been superb beating opponents in the air inside their penalty area.

Given Cuper's deep-line approach, the strategy has appeared to suit Gabr more than ever, with the latter's lack of pace is now unlikely to be exposed.

Gabr's abilities as a penalty-box defender has never been in question, but his lack of first-team football in the second half of the season is what have caused some concern.

Having moved on a six-month loan from Zamalek to West Bromwich in the winter break, the 29-year-old defender has barely featured ever since.

West Brom's critical league position has always made managers reluctant to make changes in defense, which usually featured Hegazi, Jonny Evans, Gareth McCauley and Allan Nyom.

Fears, however, has been allayed after Gabr had put in a fine showing in a 2-1 friendly defeat to Portugal in March, but the defender's consistency remains to be tested.

Even so, manager Cuper is not likely to do without Gabr at the World Cup after the Zamalek center-back and his defense partner Hegazi played a key role in helping Egypt qualify for the Cup of Nations final in Gabon.

And given the danger posed by Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and Paris Saint-Germain's forward Edinson Cavani in the World Cup opener against Uruguay, Cuper will be looking to field his best-choice center-back duo to contain their threat.

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