TEAM PROFILE: Egypt out to prove they’re about more than just Mohamed Salah

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah takes part in a training session of Egypt's national football team at the Akhmat Arena stadium in Grozny on June 11, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 12 June 2018
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TEAM PROFILE: Egypt out to prove they’re about more than just Mohamed Salah

  • Hector Cuper has the Pharaohs set up very defensively.
  • Side will look to sit back, not concede and attack on the break.

Thanks to Mohamed Salah’s shoulder Egypt head into the World Cup as one of the most covered teams — a novelty, not least because this is their first time at the tournament since 1990.

HOW THEY GOT THERE
Salah scored a dramatic stoppage-time penalty against Congo to seal the Pharaohs’ passage to Russia with a match to spare. Egypt came through the their group with four wins, a draw and just the solitary defeat to Uganda. It was one of the easier groups and with Salah on top form qualification was always likely.

MANAGER
Hector Cuper is well traveled, the Argentine spent a decade managing clubs in Spain and Italy, including spells at Inter Milan and Valencia, whom he led to two Champions League finals. He has a great pedigree and has been Egypt boss since 2015, since when he has molded the side in much the same way as he did his club sides, very defensive and solid with little room for expression or flair. This has led to some criticism, with fans wanting to see a more attacking setup. As if to emphasize his outlook, despite the optimistic fitness reports concerning Salah, Cuper has been at pains to stress the side has to remember it is a team game and not to rely on Salah.

TACTICS
Can be summed up in one word: Defensive. In his first 32 matches as Pharaohs coach the side only conceded 18 goals and until last week’s 3-0 reverse to Belgium had not lost by more than one goal. The defensive mindset has been instilled into the squad with the side having two holding midfielders, Mohamed 
Elneny and Tarek Hamed, in a 
4-2-3-1 formation. Both those players will sit deep and rarely make bursting runs through the middle, it is a safety-first policy that has worked so far, and which Cuper will stick with. Elneny’s importance to Egypt cannot be overstated. He has improved during his time at Arsenal and his defensive duties are as key to the side’s chances of success as Salah’s shooting boots.

KEY MAN
At the risk of being accused of predictability, we have to go with Salah. Such is the side’s defensive setup, they do rely a lot on the Liverpool ace’s attacking flair and goals. As if to illustrate his importance to the side, the 25-year-old had a hand in all seven of Egypt’s goals in qualification — scoring five and setting up the other two. There is still doubt over just how much of the group stage he will play in. Egypt’s first clash in Group A comes on Friday against Uruguay, a starting spot for that match may still be unlikely, the next few days will reveal more. But while it is possibly 
going too far to say they are a one-man team, Egypt do need a fit and firing Salah.

WORLD CUP HISTORY
Egypt have appeared in two World Cups, 1934 and 1990, and are yet to register a win. They were the first African nation to qualify for the tournament, but were beaten 4-2 by Hungary in their own match at the 1934 showpiece. They finished bottom of their group at the 1990 tournament with two draws and a defeat.

STRENGTHS
They are hard to break down and will not concede many goals in Russia. In Salah they have a genuine world-beater, if they can maintain that dogged defence and get Salah fit and firing then they will prove a tough test for any team. There is hope back home that not only can they get out of the group for the first time, but also possibly make the last eight.

WEAKNESSES
Their strength could also prove to be a weakness. If Salah is not fit it is hard to see them scoring, which will put a lot of pressure on the backline.


Eriksen late show keeps Spurs on course for top four finish

Updated 24 April 2019
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Eriksen late show keeps Spurs on course for top four finish

  • Erikssen’s long-range strike gave Spurs the win over Brighton

LONDON: After bombarding the Brighton goal without success throughout the game, Tottenham was getting frustrated.
So frustrated that, with Harry Kane’s injury depleting Tottenham’s striking options, out-of-favor Vincent Janssen was summoned from the bench for his first appearance in 20 months for the final 10 minutes.
In the end, though, it was a more familiar name that delivered the breakthrough. Christian Erikssen’s long-range strike inside the near post gave Spurs a 1-0 win over Brighton on Tuesday that kept his team’s bid for a Champions League spot on track.
The goal finally came in the 88th minute when the Dane was teed up by Dele Alli and squeezed the ball beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
The goal nudged Tottenham three points clear of Chelsea in fourth Champions League qualification place. Arsenal is a further point behind in fifth place ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Wolverhampton.
By conceding a late goal, Brighton was denied a point in its bid to stay in the Premier League and remains three points ahead of Cardiff, which occupies the final relegation place.
But another of Brighton’s relegation rivals also conceded late — after scoring early.
The earliest-ever goal in a Premier League game.
Shane Long netted after 7.69 seconds for Southampton but Andre Gray leveled in the 90th minute to grab a 1-1 draw for Watford.
Southampton is three points ahead of Brighton and six clear of the drop zone with three games remaining.