It’s time for Belgium to move aside.
There is a new World Cup dark horse in town and it goes by the name of Egypt.
Egypt boast one of the most exciting strikers in world football in Mohamed Salah and the World Cup gods have been favourable to them for the group draw.
So could they really go all the way to becoming the first world champions from Africa?
The Egyptians qualified for their first World Cup in 28 years in the most dramatic fashion thanks to Salah’s 94th-minute penalty to beat Congo back in October.
The Liverpool flyer showed the kind of nerves of steel that could serve him well at the tournament by slotting what has been called ‘one of the most important single kicks of a ball in Egypt’s sporting history’.
Unsurprisingly Salah is the most important cog in the Egypt team but he has shown that he carries the weight of the team on his shoulders with ease.
The national icon scored a remarkable 71% of Egypt’s goals in the qualifying phase and scored in every one of the all-important African qualifying third round matches.
Other than Harry Kane with England and Lionel Messi for Argentina no other team at the tournament has a player in the kind of form that Salah has shown this season.
He has scored 33 times for Liverpool in all competitions and is level with Kane at the top of the Premier League golden boot race on 24 league goals.
He has scored more goals for Liverpool in a single season than any other player and Jurgen Klopp’s use of him in a marauding position on the left has ignited his amazing goal scoring season.
With the pace and trickery that Salah possesses he can create chances out of nothing and will strike fear into the heart of any defence he comes up against.
The likes of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay should all be worried.
With Salah in this kind of electric form he can inspire Egypt to serious heroics in Russia.
But, let’s not forget this is not a one-man team.
The Pharaohs boast several other Premier League stars including Arsenal’s resurgent Mohamed ElNeny, West Brom’s man mountain Ahmed Hegazi and then there’s maverick goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary.
The extraordinary keeper will be 45 years old when he takes to the pitch for Egypt’s opener against Uruguay.
So let’s consider how Egypt’s World Cup is going to pan out.
They’ve got their biggest match of the tournament up first, Uruguay are the strongest team in the group but with Salah’s speed up front and Hegazi bullying Luis Suarez they have a realistic chance of getting a result.
They play Russia afterwards before an all Arab clash against Saudi Arabia.
The fans at home will be expecting two wins after the first match and if they finish first in the group Cairo will be shaking come June 25.
If they get through the group stage they will likely face either Group B’s probable winners Spain if they finish second or most likely Portugal if they come first.
Both are very difficult tasks, but with the backing of a nation, a strong and balanced squad and a diamond in the shape of Salah anything can happen in the World Cup knockout stages.
Don’t rule out an upset here.
After that it is anyone’s game.
They’re definitely outsiders but this could be the year we see the first World Cup winner from the continent of Africa.
What a moment that would be.
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