Egypt calls up UAE-based striker for warm-up friendlies

CAIRO — Egypt coach Hector Cuper has given a first call-up to striker Hussein el-Shahat, the only surprise selection ahead of a pair of World Cup warm-ups against Portugal and Greece later this month.

El-Shahat, a 27-year-old forward who plays for Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, has been on loan from Egyptian club el-Maqasah since January. He has scored seven goals and provided nine assists, helping his team move closer to winning the Gulf nation's top league.

With good ball skills and a knack for finding the target, el-Sahaht could help reduce Egypt's near complete dependence on Liverpool winger Mohammed Salah, who scored five of the national team's seven goals in African qualifying.

Egypt is returning to the World Cup for the first time since 1990 and will face host Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in the group stage.

Cuper gave another striker, Mahmoud Abdel-Razeq, only his second call-up since 2014 on Tuesday. Abdel-Razeq, better known as Shikabala, scored a superb goal in Egypt's 1-1 draw with Ghana in its last Group E qualifier in November. Egypt had already qualified before the game, prompting the Argentine coach to give Salah a rest.

Shikabala plays for Saudi club al-Raed, his latest stop in a journey that has seen him play in Egypt, Greece, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates.

The Pharaohs play Portugal March 23 and Greece four days later. Both games will be played in Zurich, Switzerland.

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