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 2018 FIFA World Cup 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 featured 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.
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