It is a clash of two individual titans as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal take on Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in an international friendly on Friday.
Portugal have a lot to prepare for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with the team paired with the likes of Spain, Iran and Morocco. While Cristiano Ronaldo is their icon and captain, the overall age of the squad is a bit on the upper side, the World Cup will serve as the last shot at the World Cup for a lot of the players within the squad.
Egypt are riding on the Mohamed Salah wave. The Liverpool man was the difference maker in their journey towards the World Cup and will now be one of the players to watch, with the player in the prodigious form that he is. Egypt have a tough but realistic chance of qualification to the next stage, having been paired with Russia, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia.
Their last encounter against each other was back in 2005, with Portugal earning a 2-0 win over Egypt. Ahead of their latest meeting, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Fernando Santos should stick to his 4-3-3 formation, with Rui Patricio all but confirmed as the first-choice keeper going into the World Cup. Patricio should start between the posts on Friday. But, the defence is a gray area for Santos, with Pepe not included due to injury.
The manager has the likes of Rolando, Neto, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte to choose between for the two spots in central defence and is likely to go with the experienced pairing of Fonte and Bruno Alves. Mario Rui should start on the left, with Raphael Guerreiro still struggling to regain match fitness, having played only twice in 2018 so far. Joao Cancelo should make up the back four.
Ruben Neves is likely to start at the tip of the midfield but the other two spots are up for grabs. Ideally, Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho should be the ones selected ahead of others but there could be surprises as far as the midfield is concerned.
The front three is likely to consist of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and Andre Silva, with the AC Milan striker the only centre-forward called up to the squad.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Patricio; Cancelo, Fonte, Alves, Rui; Neves, Carvalho, Moutinho; Quaresma, Andre Silva, Ronaldo
45-year-old Essam El Hadary, Egypt’s captain, should start between the posts on Friday and add another appearance to his 156 international caps for Egypt. The Baggies duo of Ali Gabr and Ahmed Hegazy should be the centre-back pairing while Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdelshafi should be on either side of the Baggies duo.
Mohamed ElNeny should partner Tarek Hamed at the base of the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mohamed Salah, Ramadan Sobhi and Trezeguet making up the numbers behind the striker. Ahmed Hassan is likely to spearhead the attack for Hector Cuper’s men as they look to prove that they will not be pushovers in the upcoming World Cup.
Egypt’s attack is likely to be on the counters, with the team looking to exploit the pace of Salah, Sobhi and Trezequet to open up Portugal’s defence, especially with their centre-back pairing, who are on the other side of 30 and are unlikely to be much of match for the pace of the aforementioned trio.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): El Hadary; Fathi, Gabr, Hegazy, Abdelshafi; ElNeny, Hamed; Salah, Sobhi, Trezeguet; Hassan
Player to Watch
No matter who is on the pitch, all eyes will be glued upon Mohamed Salah. The player has been tearing it apart for Liverpool at club level and people will be looking closely as to whether the Egyptian can replicate his club form at the international level as well.
Against a Portugal side that are European champions, Mohamed Salah will be key for Egypt in their attacking endeavours.
Portugal 4-3 Egypt
As we gauge the defence and attack of the two teams, it is clearly going to be a high scoring game on Friday at the Letzigrund Stadion. Portugal are famed, or rather, ill-famed for falling behind early and we could very well see the same thing transpiring on Friday, with the European champions then staging a comeback.
Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo are both expected to be on the scoresheet. But, we tip Portugal to somehow edge the Egyptians.