Egypt legend Magdi Abdelghani has picked his country’s opening Group A fixture against Uruguay as a crucial tie that could define their 2018 FIFA World Cup outing.
The north African side will begin their campaign against La Celeste at the Central Stadium in Yekaterinburg on June 15.
And Abdelghani explained how Hector Cuper’s team can secure passage to the second round of the competition.
“In a World Cup, there are no easy teams. But I believe we’ve managed to avoid drawing the very best teams. I think the draw served us somewhat well, and even the game order is in our favour," Abdelghani told FIFA.com.
“The fact that our first fixture is against Uruguay, will encourage our guys to raise their game against a title-contending team with great players like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. This will be the key to the rest of our journey.
“We’ll take on Russia in our second match and, by that time, we’ll have drawn up a plan based on the result and performance of the hosts in the tournament opening game. I believe our performance over the past two years, when we closed teams down and denied them space, will prove effective in Russia.
“We’re also good at launching fast counter-attacks. The third game against Saudi Arabia will be open, which I hope will help us qualify for the second round."
Abdelghani scored Egypt’s only goal at the 1990 Fifa World Cup in Italy that earned them a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands as they eventually crashed of the tournament without registering a win.
However, the former Al Ahly and Beira-Mar player has tipped Mohamed Salah who boasts of an impressive goalscoring record of 32 goals in 40 games so far this season, to break the country’s 28-year-old goal drought in the World Cup.
“I hope Egypt can achieve good results in Russia and that the players will manage to score," he said.
“I expect Mohamed Salah to have the distinction of netting our first goal, especially as he’s performing brilliantly with Liverpool and scores almost every time he plays."
The 58-year-old held the record of the only Egyptian playing in Europe when the country last participated in the World Cup in Italy 1990 – their second World Cup appearance.
However, most of Hector Cuper’s men play abroad and the ex-international left an advice for the foreign-based stars including Liverpool’s Salah.
“Now we have a large group of professionals in Europe and throughout the Arab world. Egyptian players have proved their competence in the game’s leading championships,” he added.
“The best example is Mohamed Salah, who has now become the talk of the world thanks to his skills and scoring abilities. I believe that a good competitive environment in itself will improve the players' physical and technical abilities.
“My message to them is to stay at the top of their game in the coming months and keep performing to the standard expected of them. Tactics and implementing the coach's plans are important, but they also need to bring to the table the fighting spirit that has always characterised us.”
By Taiye Taiwo
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