Egypt – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

AFCON 2023 Egypt – Team guide, key players, lineup, prediction

Solace Chukwu 22:52 - 03.01.2024

All you need to know about the Pharaohs of Egypt ahead of AFCON 2023

The 2022 World Cup saw the culmination of a long quest, as Lionel Messi finally cemented his international legacy by slaking his country’s thirst for a World Cup. With his 32nd birthday a few months away, time seems to be running out for Mohamed Salah to lead Egypt to Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) glory and complete a defining work on the international stage.

Unlike two years ago, they come into the AFCON looking good. They coasted through qualifying with 15 points out of 18, only losing once – a bizarre 2-0 away defeat to Ethiopia under previous management – and conceding just three goals. In 2023, they won eight of 10 matches, with their sole defeat coming in a friendly against Tunisia.

FIFA ranks Egypt as the 33rd-best team in the world, and fifth in Africa.

The history

The Pharaohs have won the AFCON seven times, two times more than anyone else, with their last triumph coming as the last of a glorious three-peat in 2010. 

Egypt national football team last won the AFCON in 2010
Egypt last won the AFCON in 2010

While 14 years is a long wait for AFCON glory where Egypt is concerned, they have reached two more finals in the last four editions; two years ago, they dusted off an opening defeat to Nigeria to reach the final, ultimately losing on penalties to a Senegal side flying on the wings of destiny.

The coach and tactical approach

Former Benfica manager Rui Vitoria is highly decorated, and has sought to steer Egypt away from their counter-attacking identity under previous managers Hector Cuper and Carlos Queiroz. His means is an asymmetrical 4-4-2 that places emphasis on possession and fluidity in the final third, and relies on a solid double-act at the base of midfield.

Can Egypt national football team coach Rui Vitoria lead the Pharaohs to success at AFCON 2023?
Can Rui Vitoria lead the Pharaohs to success at AFCON 2023?

He has faced some criticism for his selections, most especially the exclusion of Al Ahly’s Yasser Ibrahim, and Egypt have had some issues controlling transitional moments.

Key players

At the forefront of the Pharaoh’s hopes is Mohamed Salah, whose international record stands at an enviable 53 goals in 93 appearances. His best has, however, not always come at AFCON, in part due to the negativity of previous managers. Vitoria has him playing as part of the front two, which suits him down to the ground, and should afford him greater opportunity to affect matches.

At the back, a lot rests on Mohamed Abdelmonem, especially with Ahmed Hegazi’s extended absence due to an ACL tear. He shone two years ago in a breakout role, and should do so again in Ivory Coast. 

Can Mohamed Salah finally inspire Egypt to AFCON glory?
Can Mohamed Salah finally inspire Egypt to AFCON glory?

Mahmoud Trezeguet has a knack for turning in his best performances in Egyptian colours, and as a result is the big beneficiary of the asymmetry, staying higher on the left to combine with the forwards and get shots away.

Young player to watch

This is not a particularly young squad, but 24-year-old Omar Marmoush is a wildcard option that has really pushed on since the last edition, where he was similarly billed as a potential breakout star. Based out of Eintracht Frankfurt these days, the forward has a good shot on him and is best in counter-attacking moments, so watch out for him coming on to stretch a few defences late on in matches.

The Egypt squad for AFCON 2023

Probable lineup

Mohamed El Shenawy; Mohamed Hany, Ali Gabr, Mohamed Abdelmonem, Ahmed Fatouh; Zizo, Mohamed Elneny, Hamdi Fathi, Mahmoud Trezeguet; Mohamed Salah, Mostafa Mohamed.  

Tournament prediction

Two years ago, Egypt were positively wretched to start, but went all the way to the final. One cannot ever reckon without the Pharaohs at AFCON. A forgiving Group B means back-to-back grudge matches – against Morocco and Algeria in the last eight and semifinals respectively – are almost certain. They may get past one, but both? Reaching the final again seems a step too far.

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