Defined wholly by the infinite number of Mohamed Salah-related headlines, Egypt’s hopes for Russia 2018 depend entirely on a materialization of the dark horse tags that’ve been attached to them since the now-Liverpool talisman became just that.
As was the case in Liverpool, Salah’s team will go as far as he takes them, and while his supporting cast with Egypt is home to less stars than Anfield, the group will, again, look to contribute anything that Salah’s all-around brilliance fails to.
Standing at the front of the queue, waiting to provide the Pharaohs with whatever amount of je ne sais quoi they’re lacking, is Abdallah El-Said. Boasting a right foot as cultured as any who’ll make the trip to Russia, and joining up with the squad on the back of a successful Egyptian Premier League season, Said’s play has already pushed Egypt through the qualifying rounds, and remains the perfect addition to a dangerous pool of attacking talent.
At 32-years-old, with no prior World Cup experience, the midfielder does have something to prove this summer. But what Said lacks in youth and major tournament wear, he makes up for with the methodic, controlling performances that’ve put him amongst Egypt’s best.
The 10 goals and 11 assists he poured into Al Ahly’s title-winning campaign last season highlight but one side of his game, with the league’s second best goal-contribution tally serving only as a testament of what’s seen more clearly on the pitch.
Often employing deep one-two’s to create space for himself further forward, Said’s traditional style of play — which sees him dribble wide before cutting in on his stronger foot — is made anything but traditional by both his eye for runs and ability on the ball.
High, curling balls into the box are as much a cornerstone of his game as the mazy runs, and although Salah is the undisputed torchbearer of this Egypt squad, a fate beyond the group stage could afford Said the opportunity to become something more than just second-in-command.