Without Mohamed Salah, Egypt was up against it when it took on Group A favorites Uruguay in both nations' opening match of the 2018 World Cup. Opting to play a defensive brand without the star striker, Egypt put on a resolute display of defending that looked as though it would save it a point. However, its defensive organization broke in the final minutes as a Jose Gimenez header in the 89th minute delivered Uruguay all three points in a 1-0 victory from Ekaterinburg on Friday morning:
Gimenez gives Uruguay the lead in the 89th minute! pic.twitter.com/SlBmzx9TAX— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
The Egyptians had received a bit of good news just hours before the start of the tournament as the striker Salah was available after injuring his shoulder in the Champions League Final at the end of May. However, he was only available off the bench for his country's opener to give him just a bit more rest.
It looked like Egypt wouldn't need him thanks to its stalwart defense that had Uruguay desperately and unsuccessfully searching for answers.
Uruguay did have its chances though. Luis Suarez had a monumental miss in the 24th minute as a chance that he would have finished 99 out of 100 times went beckoning. Off a corner, the ball deflected off a scrum of bodies in the middle of Egypt's box and fell to Suarez on the left post. Within nothing but an open goal in front of him, the Barcelona man pulled his chance horribly wide into the side netting:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
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By the 35th minute, Egyptians were chanting the name of Salah, who was shown holding shin guards providing an inkling that he might get into the match. But they were forced to keep waiting as their talisman did not appear in the opening match, which allows another 72 hours of recovery before Egypt's next match against Russia.
In the meantime, the Egyptians on the field remained resolute despite Uruguay amping up the pressure in the second half. Suarez and his striking partner, PSG's Edinson Cavani were unable to establish much time on the ball throughout the match.
When Suarez was presented with another chance in the 73rd minute when he was in alone on Mohamed Elshanawy to the right of goal, but he took an extra touch and the Egyptian keeper was able to snatch the ball away from the forward:
Luis Suarez misses ANOTHER big chance! pic.twitter.com/FJi2hCc2FJ— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
Cavani his first of two glorious chances in the 83rd minute when he cannoned a volley from the top of the box that looked destined for goal. However, Elshanawy flashed a strong right hand to steer it away from danger.
Cavani came so close to giving Uruguay the lead but El Shenawy comes up with the big save! pic.twitter.com/rkdVv9rgfc— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
The second came via a free kick in the 88th minute when he clattered his chance off the woodwork, but that was the last bit of luck Egypt would have as they were finally broken by Gimenez's head in the 89th minute.
It salvaged Uruguay's opener as they could wrap up a spot in the Round of 16 with a win against hapless Saudi Arabia, who were thumped 5-0 by hosts Russia on Thursday.
While Egypt wasn't expected to take anything from a match against the Uruguayans without Salah, it's still a painful way to start its first tournament in 28 years. Expect Salah to play in the final two matches which gives the Pharaohs a chance at advancing past a weaker Group A.