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CAIRO, June 19, 2018 (MENA) - About 150 Egyptian football fans headed on Tuesday for Petersburg on board of an EgyptAir flight to support their team during today's crucial match with Russia.

The Egyptian national football team will face Russia within the framework of Group A matches of the 2018 World Cup.

MOSCOW, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Russia declared the soccer World Cup open on Thursday at a glitzy ceremony in Moscow headlined by British pop star Robbie Williams and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina.

The 15-minute show produced by Russia’s state Channel One broke from World Cup tradition, focusing on musical acts including a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky in front of full stands at the capital’s main Luzhniki stadium.

Iker Casillas and Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova brought the World Cup trophy onto the pitch in a Louis Vuitton travel case.

Robbie Williams performed hits “Let Me Entertain You” and “Rock DJ” accompanied by dancers and freestylers.

He was joined in a duet by Garifullina, a soloist from the Vienna State Opera, who entered the pitch on a firebird, singing Williams’ hit song “Angels”.

The opening ceremony was due to be followed by a match between the host team and Saudi Arabia.

MOSCOW, June 13, 2018 (News Wires) - Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked FIFA on Wednesday for keeping politics out of sport, the day before the start of the soccer World Cup.

Russia will host the tournament from June 14 to July 15 in 12 stadiums spread across cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

“I wanted to underline FIFA’s commitment to the principle of sports without politics,” Putin said during a FIFA Congress in Moscow while standing next to the World Cup trophy.

LONDON, June 6, 2018 (News Wires) - The oldest player at this year's World Cup will be 45-year-old Egypt goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary.

And, should he play, he will become the oldest player to ever appear in the competition's coveted history.

El-Hadary made his first-team debut all the way back in 1993 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old while playing for Damietta in his native Egypt.

He went on to join Al-Ahly where he won eight titles and four CAF Champions Leagues.

El-Hadary earned the first of his 157 caps in 1996 - 10 months before his youngest teammate in Russia, Stoke's Ramadan Sobhi, was born.

The former FC Sion shot-stopper is still going strong in 2018 - playing for Al-Taawoun of Saudi Arabia, for whom he made 27 appearances this term.

El-Hadary had a brief flirtation with English football, undergoing a trial at Hull City, but never signed terms with the Tigers.

But he will be usurped by El-Hadary should he keep goal for Egypt in Russia.

El-Hadary came on as a substitute in Egypt's most recent friendly, a 0-0 draw with Colombia on June 1.

He is joined by Egypt talisman Mo Salah in the Pharaohs' squad for the 2018 tournament.

LONDON, May 16, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana missed out on England boss Gareth Southgate’s 23-man World Cup squad as club team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold earned a first call-up for the finals in Russia.

Gary Cahill returns in defence, and with goalkeeper Joe Hart absent as expected, the Chelsea defender is England’s most experienced player with 58 caps.

Lallana joins goalkeeper Tom Heaton, Lewis Cook, Jake Livermore and James Tarkowski on the stand-by list.

Forward Danny Welbeck is rewarded for his form in Arsenal's run to the semi-finals of the Europa League, but 34-times capped team-mate Jack Wilshere misses out with young Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek included after impressing during a friendly against Germany last November.

Loftus-Cheek, 22, has spent the season on loan at Crystal Palace and was pivotal in ensuring they preserved their Premier League status under former England manager Roy Hodgson - playing 27 times as Palace finished 11th in the table.

Alexander-Arnold caps a dream season by earning a place in the squad after making his Liverpool debut in October 2016 and helping his team reach the Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 26.

The uncapped 19-year-old right-back earns a place despite having yet to play for England in only his second season in the senior game.

"The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it," said Southgate.

“We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us."

U21 international Alexander-Arnold trained with England before the friendlies with Italy and Netherlands in March.

He has made 32 appearances for Jurgen Klopp's side this season with Southgate admitting he was excited by the player's ability.

Fabian Delph makes the cut despite winning the last of his nine caps against Spain in November 2015.

But he has played 29 times for Manchester City this term, and gets the nods because of his versatility in being able to operate at full-back or midfield. Ashley Young is also named, and could win a starting spot as a left wing-back.

Southgate explained the decision to omit 75-times capped goalkeeper Joe Hart and Ryan Bertrand, who loses out to Danny Rose.

"Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so they’re not decisions we took lightly. I could’ve had easier conversations by keeping them involved," he said.

CAIRO, May 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Egyptian football has for long enjoyed prestigious status on the continent. Till date, the Pharaohs (men’s national team) are the record African Cup of Nation (AFCON) title holders with seven trophies.

At the club level, Al Ahly and Zamalek especially have dominated the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League over the past few years.

Having said that, the gains have not reflected on Egypt’s World Cup outing. Between their first and second appearance at the World Cup is a span of 56 years. In 1934, they became the first Africa side to play in the World Cup.

It was not until 1990 in Italy that the Egyptian flag resurfaced at the World Cup. Then another long lull of nearly three decades and Egyptian football lovers await their first World Cup since the turn of the century.

The road to Russia looked easy on hindsight but clearly the side led by Argentine manager Hector Cuper had a strategy of doing all it took to win at home and pushing for a good result away. Three home wins, an away win, draw and loss was enough to see them through.

But even before Egypt was drawn in the final round of qualifiers against Ghana, Uganda and Congo Republic, they dispatched Chad by 4 – 1 on aggregate Round 2 of the qualifiers. They lost first leg by a lone goal in N’jamena but scored four times to edge out Chad.

Qualification record

Home fixtures =
2 – 0 against Ghana,
1 – 0 against Uganda,
2 – 1 against Congo

Away fixtures =
1 – 1 draw with Ghana,
1 – 0 loss to Uganda,
2 – 1 against Congo

Total points gained = 13 points
Total goals scored = 8
Total goals conceded = 4

Egypt is currently ranked 31st on the FIFA Coca Cola World Ranking. They go into the World Cup buoyed by a good AFCON 2016 outing. The team went all the way to the finals only to be beaten by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

It remains to be seen how the team will fair in Group A of the tournament. There they will face hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay for a place in the knockout stages.

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