Saudi Arabia and Egypt will face each other in their final games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But, who are the three players worth keeping a closer look on?
Saudi Arabia and Egypt will be aiming to bow out from the 2018 FIFA World Cup on a high when they meet at the Volgograd Arena in their final Group A games on Monday. Both sides are yet to get off the mark in Russia, having lost each of their first two matches thus far.
Therefore, a highly intense encounter could be on the cards, especially, with Saudi Arabia showing some improvements in their previous game against Uruguay. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the three players who could make a big impact on the game, one way or another.
Essam El Hadary
When Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, there was a genuine sense of excitement that had engulfed the entire nation. But, one man would have also had his eyes on possibly grabbing a record on a personal level that would make it all the sweeter for him.
However, as Egypt played their first game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Essam El Hadary’s name was surprisingly missing from the team sheet. With Mohamed El-Shenawy performing superbly, it seemed as if El Hadary might have to wait for a longer time, perhaps forever, for his day under the sun.
However, now that Egypt are not in the running for a place in the Round of 16 anymore, it is likely that El Hadary might finally get the chance to break the record of becoming the oldest player in World Cup history, which was set by Colombia’s Faryd Mondragon four years ago, when he was 43 years and 3 days. With rumours of a rift running rampant, the experienced custodian will also have to rally his men as they look to bow out of Russia 2018 on a high.
The going has been extremely tough for Saudi Arabia thus far, having failed to notch up even one point after two games. What has been even more frustrating is the fact that they have seldom posed a threat in the final third to break their scoring duck in Russia, let alone grab hold of the elusive point.
The problem only worsened once Taisir Al-Jassim sustained a thigh injury against Uruguay last week. With Mohammad Al-Sahlawi not having the best times at the 2018 FIFA World Cup either, Fahad Al-Muwallad will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility to finally get the Green Falcons their first goal in the tournament.
Last year, the 23-year-old had become a national hero when he scored the goal that clinched Saudi Arabia’s qualification to the World Cup in the 1-0 win over Japan. He can regain that status once again if he can somehow inspire Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men to their first win of Russia 2018 as well.
He may have opened his account at the World Cup last time out against Russia, but Mohamed Salah couldn’t quite be the talisman that Liverpool grew accustomed to last season, as Egypt slumped to a heavy 3-1 defeat to the hosts.
The aftermath of the loss led to reports of a fall-out between Salah and several team officials, with suggestions that he is unlikely to participate in Egypt’s final group game. But, the player has since rubbished those rumours, insisting that he will play against Saudi Arabia.
The latest set of rumours will be disturbing for the Egyptian fans as well, with suggestions that Salah could quit international football after the World Cup. Before that though, he will shoulder a bid responsibility to lead the Pharaohs to their first-ever win at the World Cup to bow out of Russia 2018 on a high.