Tactical view (Egypt vs Ghana): Goalkeeping dilemma for Pharaohs

Hatem Maher , Friday 11 Nov 2016

Essam El-Hadary
Egypt's veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary (Reuters)

On paper, Egypt are at full strength going into a vital World Cup qualifying clash at home to Ghana on Sunday but there are still questions over who should play between the sticks after a slump in form hit the country's top three goalkeepers.

Zamalek's towering shot-stopper Ahmed El-Shennawi used to be Egypt's regular number one but a series of costly mistakes that was partly blamed for his club's failure to win the African Champions League prompted Egypt coach Hector Cuper to relegate him to the bench.

With Ahly goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy also still trying to win back the trust of the Red Devils' demanding fans after some shaky displays, Cuper surprisingly turned to veteran 43-year-old guardian Essam El-Hadary in Egypt's opening Group E clash away to Congo in the World Cup qualifiers last month.

El-Hadary, who would be the oldest player in history to feature in the World Cup should Egypt make it to the 2018 finals, duly repaid Cuper's faith with some dazzling stops as the Pharaohs came from behind to earn a 2-1 win.

Pundits and fans alike sang the praises of the former Ahly and Zamalek keeper and from then on it looked a pretty straightforward choice for the Argentinean boss to pick him without much hesitation.

However, El-Hadary, who is widely regarded as the best keeper in Egypt's history, raised the alarm bells when he committed two dreadful blunders to ship two soft goals in two consecutive matches for his club Wadi Degla in the Egyptian Premier League.

"If Cuper mostly counts on experience, he will choose El-Hadary. If he bases his choices on current form he will pick Ekramy and if he is looking for a motivated keeper he will pick El-Shennawi," said Zamalek's football director Ismail Youssef, a former central midfielder who was part of Egypt's squad for the 1990 World Cup - the last time the team had qualified for the football's most prestigious showpiece.

Cuper is unlikely to tinker with his familiar starting line-up against Ghana.

He is likely to mostly stick to the same side which defeated Congo, with the exception of Zamalek's defender Islam Gamal who is expected to be replaced with Ahly's Ahmed Hegazy after the former Fiorentina man had recovered from a nagging injury.

Zamalek's Bassem Morsi is likely to start as a lone striker supported by three attacking midfielders in AS Roma's Mohamed Salah, Ahly's Abdallah El-Said and Royal Excel Mouscron's Mahmoud Trezeguet (Belgium).

Cuper prefers to introduce Stoke City's Ramadan Sobhi in the second half to unlock tight defences with his neat footwork and astute passes. 

Mohamed Elneny will partner Tarek Hamed in the heart of midfield while Omar Gaber and Mohamed Abdel-Shafi will be deployed as right and left backs respectively.

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