x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Striker fear as Egypt eye a place in semi-finals

After the joy comes the reality. Egypt celebrated like they had won the World Cup after beating Italy on Thursday - and with good reason.

After the joy comes the reality. Egypt celebrated like they had won the World Cup after beating Italy on Thursday - and with good reason. But if they are unable to follow up their 1-0 win with a victory over the US today, the result will count for nothing: just another quirky result in a tournament the major sides tend to regard with suspicion anyway. The discovery on returning to their hotel that five players had been robbed of a total of around US$2,500 (Dh9,176) will have punctured the jubilant mood, but in any event Egypt's uncompromising coach Hassan Shehata, is unlikely to let them get carried away.

For all that his assistant Shawky Gharib was speaking of a game "that will go down in Egyptian history", Shehata has made it clear that his target is a place in the semi-finals, an outcome that might be recognised across the globe. Even more important, of course, is to reproduce their form of this tournament in World Cup qualification and ensure they return to South Africa next year. The US, after a doughty opener against Italy, were pitiful against Brazil, and it was notable that most of their players afterwards were talking of being out of the tournament, even though they still have an outside chance of qualification.

The sense is of a dispirited, disillusioned, ill-disciplined side ripe for the taking, but even amid the delight of Thursday there was one obvious worry for Egypt. With Mido out of favour and with Amr Zaki and Emad Motoeb injured, the last thing they could afford was to lose Mohamed Zidan, their one remaining experienced striker. Zidan, though, has strained a hamstring, and is considered a doubtful starter this evening.

The physicality of the US's midfield could trouble Egypt's technicians, but the fear now must be that even if they do prevail in that area, they will lack the firepower to capitalise. jwilson@thenational.ae Egypt v USA, KO 10.30pm ART Sport 5