Analysis: Bradley’s Pharaohs selected for upcoming World Cup qualifier
With the race to the World Cup heating up in Africa, we have a look at the latest Egypt squad picked by head coach Bob Bradley, with some major surprises, both in inclusions and omissions.
Five wins from five group stage games puts the Pharaohs at the top of their group, and with one game remaining, how will this squad fare against Guinea?
Goalkeepers: Sherif Ekramy, Mosaad Awad (Al-Ahly), Mohamed Sobhi (Ismaily)
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi, Wael Gomaa*, Sayed Mowad, Mohamed Naguib, Rami Rabia, Ahmed Shedid (Al-Ahly), Adam El-Abd (Brighton, England), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull City, England) Mohamed Abdel-Shafy* (Zamalek)
Midfielders: Mohamed Abou-Treika, Hossam Ashour*, Abdallah El-Saied (Al-Ahly), Ibrahim Salah (Al-Oroba, Saudi Arabia), Mohamed El-Nenny* (Basel, Switzerland), Hossam Ghaly (Lierse, Belgium), Hosni Abd-Rabo*, Amr El-Sulaya (Ismaily), Ahmed Hamoudi (Smouha), Ahmed Eid, Omar Gaber, Shikabala (Zamalek)
Forwards: Walid Soliman (Ahly), Amr Zaki (Al-Salmiya, Kuwait), Mohamed Salah (Basel, Switzerland), Ahmed Refaat (ENPPI), Mohamed “Gedo” Nagy* (Hull City, England), Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim “Kahraba” (FC Luzern, Switzerland), Ahmed Hassan “Koka” (Rio Ave FC, Portugal)
Naturally, we begin with the last line of defence, the goalkeeping department. A surprise omission from the previous squad selected for the Uganda friendly a few weeks back sees Zamalek custodian Abdel-Wahed El Sayed not selected, as Sherif Ekramy and Mosaad Awad of Al-Ahly are picked, with Mohamed Sobhi of Ismaily completing the trio of goalkeepers. Mosaad Awad, signed by Ahly from Ismaily after a stellar campaign at the CAF U-20 Championship and FIFA U-20 World Cup will most likely not start, being selected in the squad as a back up to the more experienced Ekramy and Sobhi. I expect Ekramy to be the one between the sticks when Egypt face Guinea, for a few reasons. First off, Ismaily have had minimum game time recently with the turmoil in Egypt whilst Ekramy has been involved in all of Ahly’s CAF Champions League matches. Ekramy has also been in fine form in those matches, making some brilliant saves, including a fantastic penalty save in yesterdays 2-1 win over Leopards of Congo. Form usually wins the battle, and Ekramy is in the better form of the two. There is still room for surprises though.
Next comes defence, as notable omissions from Egypts last squad include Ahmed Hegazy and Ahmed Samir Farag. Despite these players being left out, the rear guard looks quite stable. Bob Bradley has done a good job at selecting top notch players as well as top notch backups, with four centre backs, two right backs, and two left backs selected. With the game being important on a number of levels for the national team, expect to see a traditional back line in this game, with indications showing that Bob Bradley is using this game as an exercise to pick his final squad for the home and away playoff legs upcoming for qualification to the World Cup. Again, from a personal point of view, I expect to see Gomaa partner Naguib in the centre of defence, with a possibility of Naguib making way for Rabia. However, on the flanks, it is very hard to pick starters. With such quality on both wings, either combination of left and right backs can be seen as very capable. Fathi may start, with Elmohamady not likely to risk injury in a dead rubber due to his Hull City commitments.
Onto the midfield, where Bradleys selections are again solid, albeit a tad defensive. Ashour, Ghaly, Ibrahim Salah, El-Nenny and Abd-Rabo primarily play defensive roles. Abd-Rabo, another surprise selection in the squad, will most likely play a very limited part in the match, if any at all, due to the fact that he is still recovering from a horrible knee injury which has seen him miss the best part of the last 6 months. Again, expect Bradley to stick with a more known midfield. I’m predicting Ghaly and Ashour to start, with Abdallah El-Saied and possibly El-Nenny to play a part, bearing in mind that the latter may fall in the same boat as Elmohammady, with many of the clubs in Europe reluctant to let their stars go for the international break. With the inclusion of Shikabala, who hasn’t been in the national Team squad for quite some time now, we see a possible source of a spark in attacking play. Don’t count out El-Sulaya as well, who has the ability to definitely make an impact, being both a starting player or an impact player from the bench.
Finally onto the forwards selected by Bob Bradley, with a scarily strong forward line in the preliminary squad. Gedo, named in the same fashion as Abd-Rabo, will most likely play no part as he steps up his recovery regime, currently coming back from foot surgery on an injury he aggravated whilst playing for Hull City last season. Salah and Abou-Treika are now regulars in the squad. Koka, who has been selected in the squad for the second time in a row following his debut goal against Uganda in Egypts last match, will be looking to capitalise on his current rich vein of form as well, targeting a place in the squad for the upcoming playoffs. The inclusion of Kahraba and Refaat, coupled with the possible combination of Salah, add some frightening pace to the Egyptian frontline, something which Bob Bradley may want to test out in the Guinea match. Walid Soliman adds a touch of class, with the left footed Ahly midfielder making the cut once again following a fine performance recently in the Champions League, scoring a sumptuous left footed curler in the process. To cap it off, Amr Zaki makes his long awaited return to the Pharaohs squad after nearly 10 months out. The Bulldozer is currently playing in Kuwait, where he looks to rejuvenate his stuttering career, which hasn’t been the same since his heroics in the first half of the 2008-2009 Premier League season for Wigan.
The match against Guinea will be played on September 10th, six days before Egypt find out who they will play in the final stage of qualifying. It is due to be played at the Borg El-Arab stadium in Alexandria, an 80,000 capacity stadium which will most likely be empty due to security concerns.
Below is my prediction of the starting line up for the match, do you agree? Would you make any changes? And finally, can the Pharaohs make it six from six in qualifying? I definitely hope so.
Goalkeeper: Sherif Ekramy (Ahly)
Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Ahly), Wael Gomaa* (Ahly), Mohamed Naguib/Rami Rabia (Ahly), Ahmed Shedid (Ahly)
Midfielders: Hossam Ashour* (Ahly), Hossam Ghaly/Amr El-Sulaya (Lierse/Ismaily), Abdallah El-Saied (Ahly)
Forwards: Mohamed Salah (FC Basel), Ahmed Hassan “Koka/Amr Zaki (Rio Ave/Al-Salmiya), Mohamed Abou-Treika (Ahly, to play behind Salah and another striker in a 4-3-3)
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