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Goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary could become the oldest player ever to appear at a FIFA World Cup after the 45-year-old was included alongside Mohamed Salah in Egypt’s provisional 29-man squad for this summer’s tournament in Russia.
Per Hamza Hendawi of the Associated Press (via MailOnline), the veteran stopper is expected to appear at the 2018 World Cup and, if he does, he will set a new benchmark in the history of the tournament.
Colombia’s Faryd Mondragon holds the record. The goalkeeper was 43 when he played against Japan four years ago in Brazil.
El-Hadary, who plays for Saudi side Al-Taawoun, is one of four goalkeepers included in manager Hector Cuper’s preliminary squad, per Juliet Bawuah of TRT World:
Juliet Bawuah @julietbawuah
Mohamed #Salah, Mohamed #Elneny make Egypt’s 29-man provisional 2018 World Cup squad. Participating teams have until June 4 to finalize their final 23-man squads for the tournament. Full squad list👇👇#Russia2018 #Africa #Egypt https://t.co/emIwIqfy8t
The final squad can only be 23 players and has to be submitted by June 4 at the latest.
One goalkeeper is sure to be culled when Cuper announces his final group, but it is highly unlikely to be El-Hadary who misses out.
He played a key role in Egypt’s qualifying campaign and started their clash against Congo in October, when Liverpool’s Salah netted an injury-time penalty to secure their spot at the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
Other notable inclusions in Egypt’s 29-man squad are Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny—who is injured but expected to recover in time for the tournament—and Stoke City’s Ramadan Sobhi.
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Egypt have a genuine chance of reaching the knockout rounds in Russia, not least because of Salah’s presence.
The Liverpool star has dazzled in 2017-18, netting 44 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions, and he could yet add to his tally when the Reds take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final.
The Pharaohs, ranked 46th in the world by FIFA, have been handed a relatively easy draw for the 2018 World Cup. They are joined by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay in Group A.
Uruguay are the toughest side in the group and, even with an in-form Salah, Egypt will not be expected to beat them in their opening encounter on June 15.
However, they could well pick up enough points against world No. 66 Russia and 70th-ranked Saudi Arabia to get out of Group A in second place.