Mohamed Salah World Cup 2018

Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah applauds during an international friendly football match between Portugal and Egypt at Letzigrund stadium in Zurich on March 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI

World Cup 2018: Group A teams, fixtures and kick-off times

Will golden boy Mohamed Salah help Egypt make their mark at the 2018 World Cup?

Mohamed Salah World Cup 2018

Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah applauds during an international friendly football match between Portugal and Egypt at Letzigrund stadium in Zurich on March 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI

Of all the 32 teams competing in the Fifa World Cup in Russia exactly 30 days from now, Egypt coach Hector Cuper has the most reason to smile and for obvious reasons.

At his disposal is a goal-scoring phenomenon, an international superstar and a national hero. But the former Argentine footballer also knows there are huge expectations as his team compete at the World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Egypt are grouped alongside hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in Group A.

Mohamed Salah is most famous for his exploits with Liverpool, but the fact that he helped ‘The Pharaohs’ qualify for the World Cup last October is what really helped the 25-year-old sensation achieve hero status back home.

Cuper, who named his 29-man squad on Monday, hopes Salah can transfer his magical form from the green pastures of Anfield to the Ekaterinburg Arena when they face Uruguay in their Group A opener on Friday 15 June.

“We hope that he will exploit the progress he’s made as a striker at Liverpool.

On Sunday, Salah set a new single-season Premier League scoring record after notching his 32nd goal of the season for Liverpool, surpassing the old mark of 31 goals he had shared with Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.

Egypt have been grouped with hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay in Group A and Cuper remains tight-lipped about his team’s chances.

The competition will be “tough”, he said of Egypt’s Group A rivals.

“But we have hope,” he added. “We’re optimistic.”

Before 1990, Egypt last made an appearance in 1934 and considering their continental pedigree, having won the Africa Cup of Nations seven times, the pressure is on for the Kings to put on a decent showing in only their third World Cup appearance.

It was against Congo last year when people first sat up and took notice of Salah when he converted from the spot four minutes into injury time that put Egypt ahead at the 11th hour.

Watch: Salah go nuts as he converts injury-time penalty

https://twitter.com/Oliver__Bond/status/917104544236081153?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.givemesport.com%2F1165318-what-mohamed-salah-did-when-congo-equalised-against-egypt-was-truly-amazing&tfw_creator=GiveMeSport&tfw_site=GiveMeSport

Salah will, however, miss the two friendlies scheduled for later this month.

Egypt will play away to Kuwait on May 25, tackle Colombia in Italy on June 1 and then travel to Belgium on June 6 in three World Cup warm-up matches before travelling to Russia.

Egypt lost to Portugal (2-1) and Greece (1-0) in their last two friendlies.

The Premier League and African Player-of-the-Year will be on duty for the Reds as they prepare to take on Real Madrid in Champions League final on Saturday, 26 May.

Other big names to crack the nod are Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and at least five other England-based players: West Bromwich Albion defenders Ahmed Hegazy and Ali Gabr, Stoke winger Ramadan Sobhy, Aston Villa defender Ahmed Elmohamady and Wigan midfielder Sam Morsy.

Hosts Russia will be hoping to improve on their 2014 showing when they exited the group stage after losing to Belgium and failing to beat South Korea and Algeria. They were also poor at Euro 2016 and picked up just one point against England.

It will be interesting to see if they crash out like South Africa did in 2010 or will they impress like South Korea who reached the semifinals in 2002 before losing out to Germany.

Two-time World Cup champions Uruguay are always an entertaining side to watch even if most Bafana Bafana fans don’t agree. Remember Diego Forlani?

Edinson Cavani finished as top scorer with 10 goals in Uruguay’s qualification group, scoring more than Neymar and Coutinho combined.

Group A teams:

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Egypt

Uruguay

Fixtures:

All kick-off times are SAST.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Russia v Saudi Arabia

17:00

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Friday, 15 June 2018

Egypt v Uruguay

14:00

Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Russia v Egypt

20:00

Saint Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Uruguay v Saudi Arabia

20:00

Rostov Arena, Rostov-On-Don

Monday, 25 June 2018

Egypt v Saudi Arabia

16:00

Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Russia v Uruguay

16:00

Samara Arena, Samara

Read more about Egypt’s World Cup history here.