World Cup dream achieved

Egypt's 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary says he feels like he's 20 again.

That's a dream combination: A 20-year-old with the vast experience gained from a career stretching nearly three decades.

"I have dealt with three generations of players, each one of them was different," El Hadary said in a recent television interview. "But this generation is just great. People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20."

El Hadary isn't assured of getting any game time for Egypt in the World Cup in Russia but if he does, he'll make history.

Whether he's selected to start ahead of Sherif Ekramy or Mohamed Elshenawy or goes on as a substitute, El Hadary would become the oldest person to play in a World Cup.

Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played at the last World Cup in Brazil, holds the record.

Egypt opens its campaign against Uruguay on Friday and will meet Russia and Saudi Arabia in other Group A games.

El Hadary, who enjoys celebrity status in Egypt, has rarely spoken about the age record, preferring instead to focus on the ambitions of the Pharaohs in their first World Cup since 1990. It's a return that has given many of Egypt's 100 million people a welcome reprieve amid harsh economic conditions.

Being in the World Cup is a particularly special occasion for El Hadary, who gained fame and respect as the Pharaohs' goalkeeper when they won three successive African titles between 2006 and 2010. It was a time when the Egypt team was peaking on the continental level, but kept on failing to qualify for the World Cup.

They are here now, and El Hadary doesn't hide what it means to him.

"I have a goal that I have dreamt of all my life: That we qualify for the second round," he said.

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