Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary raring to go if asked to make World Cup history

Essam El-Hadary has been training as hard as the younger members of the squad just in case he is called on to make World Cup history. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
0

Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary raring to go if asked to make World Cup history

  • At 45, El-Hadary will become oldest player to ever play at the finals
  • 'People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20'

MOSCOW: Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary says he feels like he is 20 again.
That’s a dream combination: A 20-year-old with the vast experience gained from a career stretching nearly three decades.
“I have dealt with three generations of players, each one of them was different,” El Hadary said in a recent television interview. “But this generation is just great. People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20.”
El-Hadary is not assured of getting any game time for Egypt in the World Cup in Russia but if he does, he will make history.
Whether he is selected to start ahead of Sherif Ekramy or Mohamed Elshenawy or goes on as a substitute, El-Hadary would become the oldest person to play in a World Cup.
Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played at the last World Cup in Brazil, holds the record.
Egypt opens its campaign against Uruguay on Friday and will meet Russia and Saudi Arabia in other Group A games.
El-Hadary, who enjoys celebrity status in Egypt, has rarely spoken about the age record, preferring instead to focus on the ambitions of the Pharaohs in their first World Cup since 1990. It is a return that has given many of Egypt’s 100 million people a welcome reprieve amid harsh economic conditions.
Being in the World Cup is a particularly special occasion for El-Hadary, who gained fame and respect as the Pharaohs’ goalkeeper when they won three successive African titles between 2006 and 2010. It was a time when the Egypt team was peaking on the continental level, but kept on failing to qualify for the World Cup.
They are here now, and El-Hadary does not hide what it means to him.
“I have a goal that I have dreamt of all my life: That we qualify for the second round,” he said.
This is far from certain since Egypt could be without Liverpool’s star Mohamed Salah, who is recovering from a should injury, at least for the Uruguay game. Salah’s knack for scoring — 44 in all competitions in his debut season with the English club — would be sorely missed by a team that has heavily depended on him.
Still, El Hadary has been doing his part, showing full commitment to earning a starting spot.
During training sessions in Grozny, the team’s base in Russia, El-Hadary appears raring to go, always walking energetically to the pitch ahead of his teammates, and diving at full stretch for saves. In fitness drills, there’s no visible difference between El-Hadary and teammates who are 20 years younger.
But age can take a toll and El-Hadary, notwithstanding his tenacity, is no exception.
He has had an erratic season with his Saudi Arabia club Al-Taawoun and has of late shown glimpses of slower reflexes or bad judgment, most recently during a 3-0 loss in a warmup against Belgium. The Belgians netted twice while El-Hadary was in goal in the first half.
El-Hadary first rose to prominence with Cairo’s Al-Ahly club, but he fell out with management and left in 2008 for Switzerland, where his playing time was cut short by a transfer issue. Al-Ahly fans were upset by his departure, and he has become something of a football nomad, playing for several clubs in Egypt, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 19 June 2018
0

Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.