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International Friendly Preview: England - Egypt

Kick-off: Wednesday 3 March, 20:00 GMT
Wembley Stadium, London, England

It’s the year of a major tournament and so, for England, there was always going to be plenty of controversy abound.

Prior to Euro ’96 there was the infamous dentist’s chair drinking incident while preparations for the 2006 World Cup were riddled with the much-publicised ‘WAG’ culture around the camp. An alleged extra-marital affair involving John Terry and the mother of Wayne Bridge’s child, forcing the latter to withdraw from international reckoning, is beyond par for the course.

Add what could prove to be Bridge’s retirement from international football to an injury to Ashley Cole - a staple figure in the national side - and a call-up for Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross hours after his mistimed tackle left Aaron Ramsey with a horrific broken leg and you’re left with a friendly of vital importance.

Wednesday’s visit of Egypt is manager Fabio Capello’s last chance to assess his players before announcing his squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, too. The Italian is expected to field as close to his strongest XI as possible from the start, but is unlikely to pass up the opportunity to have a closer look at younger talents on the fringe of the first team, including the versatile James Milner, goalkeeper Joe Hart and striker Carlton Cole.

Egypt will not be in South Africa, but the Pharaohs are by no means slouches when it comes to cup competitions. Hassan Shehata’s side have won a whopping seven African Cup of Nations tournaments, the latest coming in January with a 1-0 win over Ghana, and the last three coming in succession.

There is little to go by in terms of previous encounters between the two countries, but Egypt might be keen to exact revenge on England for a pair of defeats, the latest coming at Italia ’90, where a Mark Wright goal saw Bobby Robson’s side progress from the group stages, eventually bowing out at the hands of Germany in a semi-final penalty shootout.

Egypt are also believed to have been selected for this friendly meeting as preparation for England’s World Cup encounter with Algeria, and Shehata’s charges may wish to prove they are a different proposition to the physical style of their fellow Africans.

FORM GUIDE

England


Brazil 1-0 England (Friendly)
England 3-0 Belarus (World Cup qualifier)
Ukraine 1-0 England (World Cup qualifier)
England 5-1 Croatia (World Cup qualifier)
England 2-1 Slovenia (Friendly)

Egypt

Egypt 1-0 Ghana (African Cup of Nations)
Egypt 4-0 Algeria (African Cup of Nations)
Egypt 3-1 Cameroon AET (African Cup of Nations)
Egypt 2-0 Benin (African Cup of Nations)
Egypt 2-0 Mozambique (African Cup of Nations)

TEAM NEWS

England

Steven Gerrard is set to captain the side on Wednesday in the absence of the injured skipper-in-waiting Rio Ferdinand – Capello has suggested John Terry will not be donning the armband again.

Ashley Cole’s injury and Wayne Bridge’s withdrawal represent opportunities for Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines to stake a claim to the left-back berth, while James Milner may fill the right-back slot. Wayne Rooney is declared fit despite doubts surrounding his fitness immediately after the League Cup final.

Possible Starting XI: Green; Brown, Upson, Terry, Warnock; Walcott, Barry, Lampard, Gerrard; Rooney, Heskey.

Egypt

Mohamed Aboutrika and Hull City striker Amr Zaki have been called up to Hassan Shehata’s squad as only two changes are made to the African Cup of Nations-winning crop.

There are no places for West Ham United’s Mido or Mohamed Barakat; Emad Motaeb and Mohamed Zidan, who plies his trade with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, could lead the line.

Possible Starting XI: Al-Hadari; Saied, Al-Muhammadi, Moawad; Fathy, Ghaly, Hassan, Aboutrika, Gomaa; Motaeb, Zidan.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England


Can anybody in the world keep up with Wayne Rooney currently? The Manchester United striker is in devastating touch of late and his headed winner in the League Cup final was his 28th goal in all competitions.

Whisper it, but England’s main man could still match Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally of 42 in a single campaign and although Rooney has little to prove in the international fold, he certainly wants to play – and score – in every game.

Egypt

For a long time dubbed the 'Egyptian Zidane', Mohamed Aboutrika returns from injury to appear at Wembley after missing the African Cup of Nations. The playmaker - who can be utilised as either a second-striker or attacking midfielder - has an impressive goalscoring record for both club and country and will look to continue in similar fashion on Wednesday.

PREDICTION

A win for England has become crucial, as the media is likely to pounce should the result go awry for Capello, especially on the back of the off-the-pitch furore surrounding the national side.

England should be able to secure a victory, but should be warned; underestimate this well-drilled Egyptian unit at your peril.

England 3-1 Egypt