PREVIEW: Egypt take on Colombia in first test since Salah injury
KingFut previews the action as Egypt take on Colombia on Friday, in their penultimate friendly match ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
On June 1, Egypt will take on Colombia, a key friendly before the World Cup kicks off in mid-June.
This will be the second of Egypt’s three preparatory friendlies, with the first match being a disappointing 1-1 draw with Kuwait.
The match comes after Mohamed Salah’s injury in the Champions League final, which is set to rule him out for three weeks. While it remains to be seen whether he will come back to as strong as he was before before the injury, Egypt will have to play these next two friendlies knowing that their star man will not be playing.
For the first time in Hector Cuper’s managerial stint with Egypt, he will have to play a meaningful match without Salah. There is also the possibility that Salah will miss the first match of the group stage against Uruguay.
Looking at Colombia
Colombia were one of the bright lights of the 2014 World Cup, with the James Rodriguez-led team making it as far as the quarter-finals. Now the team is more experienced, and they will pose a difficult challenge to an experimental Egypt side.
Colombian manager Jose Pekerman plays a defensive style, with two young athletic centre backs in Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham and Yerry Mina of Barcelona.
You would expect a team with the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao, and James Rodriguez to be very attack-minded; but this team scored only 21 goals in 18 qualifying matches.
Their issue lies mainly in their midfield, as they lack creativity. Their central midfielders, Carlos Sanchez and Abel Aguilar, are the weak links in the team. They were never creative to begin with and as they continue to age, their defensive skills are starting to decline.
Pekerman plays a 4-3-2-1 formation, and is expected to line up with:
David Ospina; Santiago Arias, Yerry Mina, Davinson Sanchez, Frank Fabra; Abel Aguilar, Carlos Sanchez; Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez, Luis Muriel; Radamel Falcao.
There is also a possibility that Pekerman could switch to a 4-2-2-2 formation, to maximize their attacking strengths. This would likely see Carlos Bacca come into partner Falcao.
In the midfield, there are younger options. Wilmar Barrios of Boca Juniors is a option in midfield. Moreover, Mateus Uribe of Club America is a more technical option in the center of the pitch.
While it is unlikely that Pekerman starts these two at the World Cup, we might see them get a lot of minutes in the match against Egypt.
Looking at Egypt
Now onto Egypt, who will be forced to test something new after the Kuwait match.
We will expect Cuper to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation. And whoever is to start in this Colombia match will probably start at the World Cup.
Cuper has not given much indication on who he will play, but the center back pairing of Hegazi and Gabr is a lock, as is the midfield two of Elneny and Hamed.
The attack is where they face a new issue, as Cuper’s tactics will be acutely affected by the absence of Salah.
Egypt literally and figuratively can’t be carried on Salah’s shoulders anymore, so we will need to see more contributions from the rest of the attack.
Trezeguet is expected to play at left wing, and Abdallah El-Said is also assured to start behind the striker. This leaves two positions, right wing and striker.
At the striker position, we have Marwan Mohsen, Ahmed Gomaa, and Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’.
Gomaa is likely to be dropped, leaving just Mohsen and Kouka. Kouka has been in poor form for both club and country this past year. On the other hand, Mohsen is making a comeback from his injury. This potentially means that we could see Mahmoud Kahraba playing as striker.
Playing Kahraba at stiker option is unconventional, but from what we saw in the Kuwait match, he is a better option in attack.
Despite the notion that Egypt have a wealth of wingers, when you remove Salah, the options look pretty bleak. Besides Kahraba and Trezeguet, the only wingers in the preliminary squad are Ramadan Sobhi and Amr Warda.
Cuper has specified that he intends to play Shikabala as a backup attacking midfielder, eliminating that option. As Cuper starts to think about a potential lineup, he should be regretting the exclusion of Hussein Al-Shahat.