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OPINION: A critique of Héctor Cúper’s 23-man World Cup squad

Last week, Héctor Cúper announced his final Egypt squad to represent the nation at the in Russia this summer. Muhammed Sayed gives his take on the Argentine’s selections.

The 62-year-old revealed his final 23-man squad on Monday, June 4, with a few surprise inclusions and omissions, some of which have worried a portion of the Egyptian fans ahead of the tournament.

Questions were asked following the reveal of the final squad regarding whether or not the squad was competent enough to face teams like Uruguay and Russia. The concerns were boosted after losing three friendlies against Portugal, Greece and Belgium, and drawing against Kuwait and Colombia, while conceding seven goals and scoring just two.

The squad list is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Essam El-Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed El-Shennawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly).

Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Mohamed AbdelShafy (Al Ahli), Ahmed Hegazi (West Brom), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Omar Gaber (LAFC), Mahmoud Hamdy El-Wensh (Zamalek).

Midfielders: Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Abdel-Razik Shikabala (Zamalek), Abdallah El-Said (Al Ahli), Sam Morsy (Wigan), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City), Mahmoud Trezeguet (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (PAOK), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool).

Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Kahraba (Zamalek).

Let’s consider each group and analyze them separately:


Mohamed Awad


My only issue with Cuper’s choice for the 3 goalkeepers is Sherif Ekramy. Just the idea of selecting a 34-year-old keeper who has been injured for the majority of the season, played only seven matches and conceded five goals, over a goalkeeper like Mohamed Awad who’s just 25 years of age and was a big asset in getting El Ismaily back to feature in the CAF Champions League again, making 30 appearances and keeping a total of 13 clean sheets, is beyond my comprehension.

Omar Gaber

Omar Gaber – Photo: Los Angeles FC


Ever since Hector Cuper was appointed, he has always been praised for his defensive mentality and his pragmatic zonal defensive system which minimizes errors at the back. But after the selection of a whopping number of nine defenders, half of whom probably won’t even feature in a single game would be insane, and that is besides the fact that a few players from this list do not even have the attribute which Cuper’s system needs the most, which is positioning.

Players like Omar Gaber and Ayman Ashraf have been seen getting caught out of position on different occasions and haven’t been sound defensively at all; having a total of five full backs in a seven-game tournament just sounds ridiculous, especially when both Fathi and Elmohamady can play well on both sides.

El-Shahat Al-Ain

Hussein El-Shahat – Photo: Al-Ain


Egypt’s midfield is probably the part we all can get excited for the most, seeing as this Egyptian side has a lot of quality when it comes to both attacking and defending from the middle of the park.
Defending midfielders like Tarek Hamed, Mohamed El Neny and Sam Morsy can function as the most important elemet in this team because of their experience, their versatility when playing next to each other as Hamed or Morsy could operate as holding midfielders to ensure further protection for the backline and El Neny who is a great passer and ball holder who can give the balance the team needs in their transition from defense to attack.

On the other hand wingers like Trezeguet, Ramadan Sobhi, Warda and Salah could give the team the pace it needs to build up a rapid counter attack from the flanks. Also the fact that we have Shikabala and Abdallah El Said in there too can give us that extra flair and style to the team by their amazing skill sets and their eye for goal.

My only issue with this midfield is the omission of Hussien El Shahat who has been brilliant this season for Al Ain, the 26- year old is a very good versatile player who can play as a right back, a right midfielder and an attacking midfielder, the former Al Makkasa player had the best season of his career yet, as he was able to score 19 goals and hand out 18 assists across 34 appearances this season.


Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’ – Photo: SC Braga


After what happened at the AFCON 2017 with Marwan Mohsen and Ahmed Hassan ‘Kouka’ getting injured right before the final, Cuper had to play with Amr Warda as a striker which was one of the reasons in which the team looked poor offensively and eventually lost the game. But for Cuper to make the same mistake twice and not just that but to leave out Kouka to Marwan Mohsen who has only in 12 games throughout the season and scored only four goals is bewildering.

What’s even worse is that Marwan Mohsen is our only option upfront (because obviously Kahraba is a natural born winger and can only play as a shadow striker and not as a number nine which leaves the team with no balance or any second option if Marwan is not performing or even if Cuper needs to change the formation and play with two strikers up front.

What are your thoughts on the 23-man squad? Let us know in the comment section below.

Reporter at KingFut and a Broadcast Journalism senior at Misr International University.



  1. Mo

    June 13, 2018 at 1:35 AM

    I agree with you. We Egyptians are known for offensive style of playing. At the Africa cup 2017 we scored in the whole tournament 5 goals in 6 games. But look at the africa Cups from 2006 – 2010 we scored more goals only in the Group stages in the past than in the whole tournament last year.

    I can tell you my opinion in two words: Cuper Out!

    With Hassan Shehata or maybe Hossam Hassan as our trainer, I would be sure that we would pass the Group stage at the World Cup this year…

  2. Rameses

    June 13, 2018 at 4:57 AM

    Let’s be fair, the poor manager doesn’t have a great deal of choice as most egyptian players are not World Cup standard. We talk about how great Hegazy is and how Sobhy is a great prospect but to be quite honest, they are both sub-par. Trezeguet is allegedly this wizard that can make things happen and again, sadly, he has been quite poor all round.

    There is a real grass roots issue in egyptian sport and not just football. The relevant ministry and the association need to be doing more in terms of investment to ensure that there are facilities and proper development of future athletes. There is an unfortunate pattern of players from ahly or zamalek failing terribly in Europe (and before anyone says otherwise, Mido was a considerable flop) therefore rules should be in place to ensure easy passage for youngsters to Europe for proper foundation in fitness, strength, tactics and nutrition as opposed to an attractive offer from ahly and weekly trips to dakahleys and asyuit. This is the west Africa model which has been nothing but successful since the 90s.

    Once we have well drilled athletes, then someone like cuper can really work wonders. However in the meantime, he must just do the best he can to ensure the team steals a game (just like gohary) because it currently does not have the capacity to control a game (as we saw in the dismal qualifying matches). Shehata was not a tactical genius but luckily had a decent group of players that had some form of dribbling, shooting and passing skills (unlike our friends today) that he managed to turn into a tournament team. You cannot compare zidan, zaky (in form), treika, hosny, abdelwahab and many others with today’s unbearably awful set of players.

    It is important for egyptians to remember that the Gulf leagues are of an extremely poor standard and it is not breaking news that a player has joined a club there, in fact, it is a testament to that player’s actual ability and passion for the game.

    • Reef

      June 13, 2018 at 7:34 AM

      Totally agree with you. The question is, will the ministry work on such a plan that creates an easy passage to Europe or will they leave things as they are? Zamalek and Ahly are not only big clubs in Egypt, but also in entire Africa, so it would be difficult for young Egyptian players not to choose for a career there.

  3. Yehya Asker

    June 13, 2018 at 6:36 AM

    I agree with the article’s points raised (particularly about keepers and defenders), except Elshahat point because Gulf leagues are way below par and doesn’t mean anything to be good at any of them.

    I also would like to add that Shifo is way too old (he cpouln’t even keep his spot with Ahli Jeddah and was loaned to a struggling team) and even that Fathi plays hard but can be beaten easily with speed (also too old).

    I believe Cuper is extremely conservative with his tactics and team selections (maybe border line coward actually) because he keep picking old players even when their level is sliding and never gives a chance to young players with potential.

    • Gogi

      June 14, 2018 at 10:19 AM

      Not borderline coward. He’s the cowardice in person which is the reason he has NEVER won anything in his long career. And he had the pleasure of working with some amazing teams full of talent in the past…

  4. ahmed

    June 23, 2018 at 4:16 PM

    More than just the squad selections which could be to a certain extent understandable, what hurt this team much more is the absolute unwillingness to try anything else than defending for a full 90 minutes. Believe me, I get that the quality of the players and our traditional weakness in terms of defending properly justifies going with a defensive mindset into games, but you also have to be able to attack or at least to create several well-constructed counter attacks because at the end of the day, you don’t win a game unless you score.

    I think Cuper failed at doing what a lot of underdogs did so far in this WC, which is to separate the game into portions where you shift from defending to attacking. Instead what he went for is 90 minutes of defending with the idea that a striker and the 3 players underneath him can attack the opposing third and successfully take on about 7 opposing players (4 defenders and 3 midfielders at least) without any support from the remaining 7 Egyptian players. Maybe this works out in Africa against teams who are defensively prone to errors, but not at the WC where you are facing off against arguably the 32 best teams there is.

    The Russia game was more than winnable, but we showed a total lack of tactical smarts and with the way this team plays, as soon as you concede the first goal, all hopes of a draw, let alone a win are effectively dead.

    • Ali G.

      June 24, 2018 at 2:53 PM

      Cuper is worse than Gohary. Egypt played better in Italy1990 against much stronger teams like England and Netherlands. I think Ghana or even Uganda would have qualified to the 2nd round.

  5. Ayman T El-Ghazali

    July 1, 2018 at 11:53 AM

    Very accurate. Sam Morsy played well the first game. Elmohammady was benched the entire competition? Cuper made some really strange decisions, especially with having only ONE FORWARD???? Oh well it’s over, and he’ll never read our comments but it is fun to get it all out in the air 🙂
    Hossam Ghaly’s omission has also not gone unnoticed, even at his age he was a leader and a great play maker.

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