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Review: How the Pharaohs played against Portugal

Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

The Egyptian National Team collapsed on Friday to Portugal after putting on a strong and resilient performance being one goal up and fighting until the final minutes before falling to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace of headed goals to win the game for the Portuguese side.

After finally qualifying to the after 28 years of misfortune in the African qualifiers for the competition, things have changed in Egyptian football. Egyptian footballers all eyed spots on the team’s plane to Russia which caused several players to join clubs abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia, to get more game time and improve.

Since ’s thrilling win over Congo in the round before last of the African qualifiers of the World Cup, which guaranteed ’s qualification to the competition, Egyptian players have been enjoying their top performances with their clubs, respectively.

That high feeling the players had in the team’s camp preparing for the Portugal encounter in Switzerland was clear in the game and they proved that Egypt is a tough side that should be feared, after being in front in the game before capitulating in stoppage time thanks to five-time Ballon D’or winner Ronaldo’s double.

The National Team has taken many unjustified criticisms after the loss mainly because of Egyptians’ premature celebration of the win, which shattered people morally after the match was over. We bring to you a review of the  overall performance by Egypt against Portugal.


Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Having your debut against a side as strong as Portugal is no easy thing but Shennawy managed to pull a decent performance despite his blunder in the first-half after giving Portugal an indirect freekick inside the box after handling Ahmed Fathi’s backpass in the first half. El-Shennawy provided a string of saves in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Andre Gomes to keep the Pharaohs up before Ronaldo scored a quick-fire last-gasp double.


Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Egypt’s central defenders Ali Gabr and Ahmed Hegazi looked great in the game; they were strong, calm and composed throughout most of the game. Hegazi proved the top defender he is in several tackles against Ronaldo and calmly taking him on in our own midfield at one point.

Gabr’s tough built physique helped him be the player he is today and in spite of not playing a club game since the 14th of January after moving to West Bromwich Albion, he was great for a player who hasn’t had any contact on the pitch for so long.

Both players are still inconsistent when it comes to positioning as Hegazi was partly a factor for Ronaldo’s first goal, having failed to mark him inside the box before Gabr made the same mistake in the second goal.

It is clear that age has taken its toll over our fullbacks, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel Shafy, as both players were struggling in the match, marking players like Ronaldo and Quaresma. Despite his age, Fathi is still able to give his best and display the captain’s charisma when needed, even if he is having a hard time with his opponent.

On the other hand, Sheefo is close to being done, making the same mistakes he made in the World Cup qualification, exposing his flank and not being brave enough to contact his marked men.


Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Mohamed Elneny and Tarek Hamed act as the team’s double pivot with both sticking to defensive duties more than pushing forward, but Friday’s match showed that they have very few football skills and they are limited players. None of them has the vision or the ability to build an attacking chance from the back and they are constrained to the sideway and back passes.

Abdallah El-Said has been giving nothing less than his best with Egypt since the 2017 African Cup of Nations and it is clear that he is the only one in the middle of the park who has that spark that Elneny and Hamed miss. Only El-Said in our midfield options can set you up in front of goal.

Mohamed Salah and Trezeguet were superb in the match, with Salah starring as always scoring a beautiful low curved long shot into the bottom corner of the net, as well as giving defenders a tough time marking him. Trezeguet has been running up and down the left flank throughout the match and killing himself on every ball as well as supporting Sheefo defensively and taking on defenders on the other side of the pitch.


Photo: Robert Hradil/Getty Images

Ahmed Hassan Kouka was a bit better than his appearances in the qualifier, looking stronger and faster but that is not what he is. Kouka is the type of player that sticks to the box and slots in goals, while Hector Cuper wants a Firmino-esque player like Marwan Mohsen.

Mohsen can drop to midfield to receive the ball and has the ability to be a stop to build a chance and support Salah on the counter attack with his speed. Marking Mohsen isn’t easy too as he is strong and works without the ball which could easily give players like Salah and Trezeguet a break to score goals.

The Pharaohs put on a great footballing show, something we are not used to. Instead of defending with all our players and relying on Salah on the counter attack to score a goal, we had possession and calmly built chances and reached their goal. Cuper is obviously improving his game, putting some attacking football into his mix instead of the park the bus tactics he adopted almost all his career with Egypt.



Youssef Wael is a massive Al Ahly and Manchester United supporter from Cairo, Egypt. One of the few Egyptians who never really wanted to have a career in football, just played it as a hobby. Wael also played squash for 7 years.



  1. Yehya Asker

    March 25, 2018 at 4:12 AM

    I agree with most of the assessment, particularly regarding the two fullbacks, Fathi and Shifo are way too old (they are easily our weakest link) I can’t believe Cuper is not playing Elmohamady.

    I also believe we need a real forward but PLEASE this is the Egyptian NT and we can’t be blinded by our local teams biased (Ahly in this case). Marwan Mohsen is also not good enough, at least Koka made sort of a name in Portugal and didn’t completely fail like Mohsen did. Remember the local league is inferior to international and top European leagues levels and doing good at that level doesn’t equate much (Ahly basically have zero competition after Mortada destroyed Zamalek).

    Regarding the two defensive midfielders, I think the issue is due to the weird extremely defensive formation that Cuper plays with (I don’t recall any other competitive team in the world plays with 4 defenders and 2 extremely defensive midfielders like him). Either 3 and 2 or 4 and 1 but never 4 and 2 unless a team wants to park the bus Mourinho style when he is up by two goals near the end of the game. Against good teams like Portugal, Uruguay and even Ghana, I don’t mind the formation much. The problem is he can’t ALWAYS play with this formation even against inferior teams like Uganda, Gabon and Saudi. He needs to change the formation when he needs to win and his team is superior.

    Finally (and I know this will be the most controversial point), regarding our playmaker Abdallah ElSaid, yes, he is talented and yes he is skillful but he is EXTREMELY slow as a playmaker (he is old as well) and with Salah our MVP needs fast passes, we need a much faster pace. The problem is the same with the second forward we started with, who are there? Do we really have other options? El-Sheikh (Ex Makassa/Ahly player) showed glimpses but is he ready and what we’ll do if ElSaid can’t play?

  2. Gogi

    March 25, 2018 at 10:36 AM

    Shikabala surely can play El-Said’s role. But unfortunately you’re never going to see use Cúper Salah and Shikabala at the same time. Or do miracles still happen? And yes, why shouldn’t players like El-Sheikh and Salah Mohsen be ready?They are extremely talented and unless they are complete wrecks in the confidence department (which I doubt) giving them a few test games is enough to avoid wobbly knees at the World Cup. Other top nations are not afraid of using their young talents even though their names might be internationally and even nationally quite unknown (see Germany).

    • Yehya Asker

      March 25, 2018 at 6:59 PM

      I’m Zamalkawy and I believe due to Shikabala’s work ethics and bad attitude he shouldn’t be even in consideration to be a sub for the NT. He was literally walking during the game when he was subbed in. You may get away with not hustling in the local or Saudi league but not on international level. He is a pure example of immense talent completely lost by bad attitude. You don’t see ANY player who PROVED himself in European league walking during a game. I’m really interested on who much (distance) he covered during his time on the field.

      This the EGYPTIAN NT, we can let our local teams (Ahly or Zamalek) biased blind us. Only the best players who gives 100% represent our EGYPT.

      Players who made it in europe and play “regularly” should be starting with no questions because trust me unless they were “Much” better than local europeans they would never had a chance. Salah, Hegazy, Elmohamady and Trezeguet should always start on locals and Saudi bound players.

      I haven’t seen our player who plays in Tunisia (Marei I believe) but he should be given the chance to compete with Koka and Mohsen for the forward position.

      • Yehya Asker

        March 25, 2018 at 7:01 PM

        *who ….. *Can’t. Sorry I was typing fast.

  3. Ahmed

    March 25, 2018 at 6:28 PM

    Egypt should better change their formation from 4-2-31 to 4-3-3 defensive atleast or else they sre going to baffle in the world cup

  4. Gogi

    March 26, 2018 at 4:43 AM

    You have a point about Shikabala’s work ethic. But somehow I just feel he’ll get a burst of motivation if he’s given the chance to prove his talent at the world stage. But maybe it’s really just me as a hardcore Zamalkawy who’s dreaming of him scoring a freekick hattrick again? 😀 I’d just like to see him start next to Salah for one time. Just to avoid all the what if’s ringing in my head for all the years he wasn’t called up. I was disappointed too by his awkward and lethargic performance against Portugal but I still haven’t completely lost hope in him.
    I agree about the established players in Europe. But given Koka’s poor performances in the NT (or him not fitting into Cúper’s system) Salah Mohsen should be given a chance. I can see him link up well with Salah and it might be just a question of time until we see him success in Europe, too.

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