Both teams have already been eliminated from Russia 2018 but a World Cup record could tumble when Egypt take on Saudi Arabia.
Mohamed Salah’s return from his shoulder injury could not avert a 3-1 loss to hosts Russia in St Petersburg on Tuesday, even though the Liverpool star netted a consolation from the penalty spot.
On the back of a last-gasp 1-0 loss to Uruguay on the opening match day, it left the Pharaohs with only pride to play for against a Saudi Arabia side who salvaged some by going down via the same slender scoreline to La Celeste – a vast improvement on their 5-0 humiliation versus Russia in the curtain raiser.
The goalkeeper against whom Saudi Arabia will try to score their first goal of the competition will provide the main source of intrigue in Volgograd.
Mohamed El-Shenawy won the nod for the first two matches from boss Hector Cuper, leaving captain Essam El Hadary on the bench.
If the 45-year-old plays he will become the oldest player in World Cup history.
“I’ll continue to serve my country whether I play or not,” El Hadary told MBC Masr.
“The Saudi Arabia game is very important to us. We will fight to achieve victory and get Egypt’s first ever World Cup win.”
— Egypt National Football Team (@Pharaohs) June 23, 2018
With Salah back in some sort of condition – 100 per cent fitness appeared some distance ahead against Russia – Egypt will start as favourites against Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men.
Pizzi led Chile to Copa America Centenario glory and a place in the final of the Confederations Cup last year, but their collapse in the CONMEBOL qualifying campaign meant he paid with his job.
The 50-year-old hopes to oversee the development of his current squad beyond Russia 2018 after this more expected failure.
“I wanted – and still want – to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches,” he said, as quoted by Arab News.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing.
“I hope now they will feel a little prouder even though we are out of the World Cup.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Saudi Arabia – Abdullah Al Khaibari
The gifted 21-year-old midfielder was a late bolter into Pizzi’s squad. Yet to be given any action at Russia 2018, this marks the perfect opportunity to give Al Khaibari a taste of the big time.
Egypt – Essam El Hadary
Even if he does not make the starting line-up it will be all eyes on the dugout and the touchline to see whether the evergreen keeper will get the chance to break Faryd Mondragon’s record.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Saudi Arabia are yet to score a goal at the 2018 World Cup – there have only been 11 previous occasions of teams failing to score at a World Cup in three or more games, with Honduras and Algeria the last teams to do this in 2010.
– Saudi Arabia are now winless in their last 12 World Cup matches (W0 D2 L10) and they have lost their last four games in the competition without scoring.
– Since joining Liverpool in July 2017, Mohamed Salah has scored 49 goals in 57 appearances for club and country.
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