Egypt eyeing first back-to-back World Cup appearances

Egypt eyeing first back-to-back World Cup appearances
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For Egypt, a World Cup qualification has often proved far-fetched. On Tuesday, however, the team will have a chance to make it back-to-back appearances at the football’s most prestigious show piece for the first time ever.

For some reason, Egypt have never been able to match their African dominance when it came to World Cup qualification, but they could go some way into ending that dismal record as they meet Senegal in the second leg of a qualifying playoff in Dakar.

Holding a slender 1-0 advantage from the first leg, Egypt are slight favourites to reach the Qatar finals , but they will have to negotiate a tough tie against the reigning African champions at their new 50,000-seat Abdoulaye Wade stadium.

Although Egypt have a record haul of seven African Nations Cup titles under their belt, they only reached the World Cup three times in 1934, 1990 and 2018.

Out for vengeance after they lost to Senegal on penalties in the Nations Cup final last month, Egypt secured a smash-and-grab win over the Teranga Lions in Cairo last Friday.

An early own goal from defender Saliou Ciss, after some good work from Liverpool talisman Mohamed Salah, proved to be the difference. Egypt then defended doggedly, keeping at bay the likes of Sadio Mane and Ismaila Sarr after Senegal had mounted an onslaught.

Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz — who is targeting a personal glory of leading a team to the World Cup finals for a fifth time after previous successes with South Africa, Iran and Portugal — hailed his team’s fighting spirit, angrily hitting back at those who criticized his cautious game-plan.

The Portuguese implied that repelling Senegal’s attacks was a success on its own, highlighting the quality that Senegal boasts. He said an even more solid performance is needed in the second leg if Egypt are to preserve their advantage.

“It’s a 0-0 World Cup game, everything is open. We need to be more powerful, we need to do it double. We need to defend with 15 or 16 players. We will probably need to fight for our lives in Dakar,” he told a news conference after the first leg.

“History does not talk about those who play better. As we know, Italy played well against Macedonia and they are out of the World Cup.”

To contain Senegal’s threat once again, Queiroz will need his entire backline to be vigilant. However, with his defence depleted, his task will not be simple.

Egypt’s central defensive pair who played the first leg will not be available, with Mohamed Abdel-Moneim ruled out after fracturing his nose in an aerial collision with Mane and Mahmoud El-Wensh suspended after picking up a second yellow card in the qualifiers.

Queiroz called up 33-year-old defender Ali Gabr, who was one of the pillars of the Egypt side that reached the Nations Cup final in 2017, and Ahly’s Rami Rabia to fill the gaps.

Senegal could also have to do without Paris Saint-Germain defender Abdou Diallo, who was taken off in the first half of Friday’s clash after sustaining what appeared to be a groin injury.

-Ahram

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