Australia

World Cup Fans: Egyptians put faith in star striker Mo Salah

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After a 28-year absence from the World Cup, Egyptians in Australia say the national side are ready to make an impact.

'World Cup Fans' is a special SBS News series running in the lead up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It looks at the 32 qualifying countries through the eyes of their fans in Australia.

Egypt will compete in the FIFA World Cup this June for only the third time in history. And after a 28-year absence, fans are confident the northern African nation will make an impression.

Egypt earned a path to football's biggest showpiece in dramatic fashion during last year's qualifiers.

All seemed lost in their penultimate match against Congo – held in the Egyptian city of Alexandria  –  with scores locked at 1-1 towards the end of the match. But five minutes into stoppage time, Egypt (and Liverpool’s) pin-up player Mohamed (Mo) Salah scored the winner courtesy of a penalty.

Mohamed Salah
Egypt's Mohamed Salah celebrates the defeat against Congo.
AP

As the locals went wild, Australia's Egyptian community was celebrating on the other side of the world.

President of the Australia-Egypt Forum Council Doctor Rifaat Ebied told SBS News he shed a tear.

"I most certainly did ... I couldn't believe it," he said.

"We were all up very early in the morning to watch.

"I was so ecstatic that I jumped up and down and clapped celebrating the achievement." 

Members of Australia's Egyptian community.
Members of Australia's Egyptian community.
SBS News

Egypt competed at the 1934 and 1990 World Cup finals but failed to win a game on both occasions. The 2018 squad is brimming with talent as many players are contracted in some of the world's big leagues across the UK, Saudi Arabia, Greece and the US.

And there’s speculation Egypt could surprise group opponents Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and host nation Russia.

"We have an excellent coach," Egyptian football historian Dr Wafik Latif said of Argentinian Hector Cuper.

"We have a bunch of players who are the all-time best.

Local favourite

Salah has proved to be a goal-scoring machine for both club and country, with the 25-year-old's strike rate of 32 goals from 56 internationals among the world's best.

"He's my hero," Dr Latif said. "Anytime I know Salah is playing in the Premier League or Egypt, I will wake up and watch in the middle of the night.

"Fortunately, I was a fan of Liverpool before Salah joined the club."

A World Cup appearance in 2018 is timely for Egypt. The country has suffered through several fatal disasters in recent years including the Cairo bombing in 2014, a stadium stampede in 2015, and flooding in 2016.

Nicknamed The Pharaohs, if any national team can provide an injection to lift the local spirits it could be Egypt at Russia 2018.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins 15 June. SBS will broadcast the biggest games, including the opening match, semi-finals and final, live, free and in HD.

The World Game: World Cup 2018 match schedule and How to watch live.

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