Egypt's Ahmed Elmohamady (afp)
During a long interview to the official FIFA website on Wednesday, Egypt winger Ahmed Elmohamady praised his national team coach Hector Cuper and teammates striker Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary for their efforts in ending 28 years of Egypt's absence from the World Cup finals.
"Cuper is one of the greatest coaches we’ve ever had in the national team. Also, I think the experience in the team is important. You see the goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary -- he’s 45. In the camps, in the games, he’s talking to the players and giving all of his experience to his teammates," Elmohamady said.
“Mohamed Salah’s a great lad, he played a big part in these qualifiers," the winger added.
“I’ve known him for a long time, since he was young. He’s improved a lot -- physically, mentally. You see the way he plays with Liverpool, his achievements are amazing. He’s been good for us in the national team. I hope he can keep the form he’s in now until the World Cup. It would be fantastic for us,” he said.
The 30-year-old Aston Villa player, who has been a key player for his national team since 2007 and has participated in three World Cup qualifiers, also spoke about his emotions in the qualifying game against Congo last October when Egypt won 2-1 with Salah's stoppage time goal.
“To see 85,000 people in the stadium celebrate, with 95 million people watching the game around the country, it was very important for us to get this done,” he said. “It was a huge thing for the country. You could see how people celebrated after the game, in the streets and in the cities.”
The former Hull City and Sunderland star made the classic joke about the only goal scored by Egypt in the 1990 World Cup, hoping to break Magdi Abdel-Ghani's jinx.
“We always remember the penalty, the only goal we scored at that World Cup,” Elmohamady said. “The guy who scored it, Magdi Abdelghani, works at the Egyptian FA, so every time we see him he’s just talking about his goal. Hopefully someone else can score in Russia so he can stop talking so much!”
Elmo considers the World Cup group A difficult, commenting on each opponent his side was drawn with: Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
“It’s not an easy group, but it’s not as difficult as it could have been,” Elmohamady said, adding that "the target is to go through the group stage and then after that, we’ll see which team we can get. Hopefully we can go as far as possible as it would mean a lot to Egyptian fans. Loads of fans will go to Russia, so hopefully we can help them celebrate as much as possible.”
"Uruguay are a big team, in the opener. They have some great players like Luis Suarez... Russia's game will be difficult, with them playing at home and the fans supporting them," he explained.
"The Saudi Arabia game is a derby game. The last time we played them in a competitive game was in the Confederations Cup and we lost 5-1, so it’s going to be difficult,” he concluded.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)