Ali Gabr

Ali Gabr

Egypt defensive staple Ali Gabr has been ruled out of the team’s crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Uganda with a knee injury.

The Zamalek centerback suffered the knock during the Pharaohs’ ongoing training camp.

Egypt’s FA says Gabr will need at least 10 days rest, meaning he will not be fit in time for the Aug. 31 showdown in Kampala.

Though not officially ruled out, his availability for Egypt’s second match with Uganda, at home on Sept. 5., is also in question.

Manager Héctor Cúper has called up Smouha defender Mahmoud Ezzat in his place.

Gabr was a vital cog in Egypt’s defense-first approach that saw them reach the Africa Cup of Nations final earlier this year.

His pairing with West Brom centerback Ahmed Hegazi saw Egypt claim six straight cleansheets at one point.

The 25-year-old Ezzat, a regular in the Smouha back line, isn’t quite the towering figure Gabr is, but still stands a healthy 189cm (6’2″).

Egypt is vying for its first World Cup finals berth since 1990, and currently leads Group E with six points.

Uganda are in second with four points, followed by Ghana with one point and Congo yet to claim a result through two match days.