(Reuters) - Factbox on the Egyptian national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup:
FIFA ranking: 46 (till June 7)
Egypt have appeared in two World Cups — in 1934 and 1990 — and have never won a match in the tournament. The Pharaohs became the first African nation to qualify for a World Cup in 1934, but were beaten 4-2 by Hungary in their only game. They finished bottom of their group at the 1990 tournament with two draws and a defeat.
Hector Cuper: The 62-year-old spent a decade managing clubs in Spain and Italy, including Inter Milan and Valencia, whom he led to two Champions League finals. Cuper was appointed Egypt manager in 2015 and has moulded the team into a strong defensive unit but some fans are keen for their team to display more attacking adventure. Cuper is likely to deploy a flat back four protected by two midfielders in Russia.
Mohamed Salah: The forward has enjoyed a stellar season for Liverpool, scoring 44 goals in 51 appearances, leading to comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Salah, named the PFA and Football Writers’ Association player of the year, has scored 33 goals in 57 appearances for Egypt. He was his country’s top scorer in World Cup qualifying, with five goals in the third round, including a late penalty in the 2-1 victory over Congo that sealed qualification for the finals in Russia.
Essam El Hadary: Egypt’s captain is set to become the oldest player to appear at a World Cup. The 45-year-old shows no signs of slowing down and was instrumental in his team’s run to the African Nations Cup final last year, when they were beaten by Cameroon. El Hadary won the first of his more than 150 caps for Egypt in 1996, 10 months before the birth of his international team mate Ramadan Sobhi.
Mohamed Elneny: The midfielder is a squad player at Premier League club Arsenal and his importance to Egypt cannot be overstated. Elneny is the defensive shield in front of Egypt’s center backs. He is still working his way back to full fitness following an ankle injury, but should be ready for the World Cup.
Egypt have lost their last two friendlies, against Portugal and Greece, as Cuper looked to experiment. The team, who reached the African Nations Cup final last year, have two wins, a draw and two defeats in their last five matches.
How they qualified:
Salah scored a dramatic stoppage-time penalty against Congo to seal qualification for the World Cup with a game to spare. Egypt came through the third round of qualifiers with four wins, one draw and one defeat.
Prospects: Egypt are drawn in Group A with Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Uruguay, led by strikers Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez, are favourites to top the group, but Egypt could finish second. If they make it to the last 16, Egypt will play the first or second-placed team from Group B featuring Spain, Portugal, Iran and Morocco, all above Egypt in the FIFA world rankings.
Complied by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond