The road to Russia

Who else could be the hero other than Mo Salah? The Liverpool forward sent all of Egypt into pandemonium with a 94th minute penalty against Congo, which sealed their qualification.

Despite an early scare against Chad, Egypt were largely comfortable in their qualification for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. Three wins in a row to end the campaign guaranteed their qualification.

How do they play?

The fact that Egypt have named just two forwards – one of which is Mohamed Salah – in their squad for this month’s World Cup tells you a large deal about how they will play. I suspect that Egypt will operate in a deep defensive block, and will look to Salah to hit teams on the counter attack.

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Stoke’s Ramadan Sobhi will look to offer the Egyptians a creative outlet in support of Salah, while¬†Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Hegazi are other recognisable Premier League names. The latter of the two are key in Egypt’s strong defence, which will be instrumental, especially against Uruguay and for the knockout rounds, should they qualify.

Who is their star player?

Mo Salah. Mo Salah. Mo Salah. Running down the wing…

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Who else? The Premier League’s best player is also Egypt’s star man. The curly mop of Salah will be the focus of every Egypt match.

Such is his importance to the side that the whole country was in uproar after Sergio Ramos’ vindictive challenge on Salah in the Champions League Final. It placed questions over whether Salah would make the World Cup, but he has been named in their World Cup squad.

One does wonder whether he is being rushed back too soon. He is Egypt’s only hope, and the nation would be in mourning should he miss the tournament. Liverpool will be hoping he isn’t rushed back too soon, though, as it could have a long-lasting impact heading into the start of the Premier League season.

How far will they go?

A lot will depend on Salah, his fitness, and how he performs. Instinct says that they’ll fall just short of progressing out of their group, with Uruguay and hosts Russia most likely to occupy the top two spots.

If Salah is fighting fit and hits top form, he could single-handedly carry Egypt to the knockout rounds. Even if he does, it’s hard to imagine that not being a step too far for the Pharaohs.

What should we watch out for?

A good tournament could win Salah the Ballon d’Or – so it’s a big summer for him. All eyes will be on the Liverpool winger and every touch, pass, dribble, and shot will be met with huge anticipation.

The neutral should be rooting for the former Roma man. His story is one of football’s best; proof that hard-work and dedication at a young age can take you far. Salah, as a child, took five-hour bus journeys to training, such was his dedication to becoming the best footballer he could be. To do it at a World Cup – and possibly win the Ballon d’Or – would be the icing on the cake for one of football’s most likeable stars.