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Uri Levy

Egypt look to change Arab teams' fortunes at Russia 2018 World Cup

Date of publication: 19 June, 2018

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It's not been going well for Arab nations on the football field, but Egypt are hopeful as they prepare to take on Russia in the World Cup, writes Uri Levy.

The first round of the football World Cup's group stage is almost over - and it's not looking good for the Arab teams participating.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco all lost their matches, and Tunisia joined the losers' circle last night.

The Carthage Eagles nearly produced a famous upset against England in Volgograd, but could not hold on.

England opened the match with a storm and got themselves onto the scoreboard with a goal by Harry Kane after eleven minutes. It seemed that the Three Lions were about to demolish the North African side, but Nabil Maâloul and his players had different plans.

At around the 30th minute they began pressing England back towards their own box, and five minutes later they earned their chance.

Tunisia won a penalty, and a cool Jerfani Sassi converted. 1-1, and the Tunisians began to believe. They had another promising chance before halftime but drew to a standstill.

With two of their star players out to injury, the Tunisians produced a combative half - despite starting in a state of shock - against a much more competent team.

 
Click here for our complete guide to
Middle East teams at Russia2018


Through the second half the Tunisians fought hard to keep the result as it stood.

They scratched, kicked, fouled and did what ever it took, but eventually England's quality, stamina and star players made the difference.

In the 91st minute Kane notched another one and buried Tunisian hopes of a first point in the 2018 World Cup. Another Arab defeat in the dying minutes of a game, after both Egypt and Morocco conceded in the crucial last moments of their matches.

At least Tunisia scored the first proper Arab goal in the tournament.

As Egypt's most important football game in their long history will be played tonight against Russia, the whole region will look towards St Petersburg, craving a positive result to keep the World Cup dream alive.

Mo Salah, the superstar who gained global fame this year running down the Liverpool wing, is fit for tonight's match, Egypt's coach has claimed. But he did also say that before their opening game against Uruguay - and the red-shirted Pharoahs only collapsed after it became obvious in the 83rd minute that Salah was not going to be brought off the bench.

Is the claim of Salah's match fitness intended to scare Russia's players? Or to inject a modicum of confidence among the Egypt squad - and a couple of hundred million Arab fans watching on TV? Or is it true - and we might finally get a chance tonight to see one of the world's most talked-about players set the global stage alight?

Russia may have opened their campaign with a 5-0 victory, but let's face it, they were playing against Saudi Arabia, and most of you reading this are probably good enough to get into the Saudi squad.

Egypt against Russia is set to be quite the match. Salah against Russia is another matter entirely - can't miss football - the World Cup at its greatest.

 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here

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