The wait for Mohamed Salah dragged on and on during Egypt’s World Cup opener with Uruguay. Liverpool’s superstar attacking sensation started the match on the bench, still nursing the dislocated shoulder that ended his electric display in the Champions League final after Sergio Ramos violently threw him to the ground, helping to cement his place amongst football’s villans through the ages.
For much of Egypt’s first game of the World Cup against Uruguay it looked like it wouldn’t matter, though, with the two sides cancelling each other out for a large portion of it, neither doing much to test either goalkeeper, keeping the scoreline stuck at 0-0 at well into the second half.
Egypt were set up to smother Uruguay’s forwards. Edison Cavani struggled to get on the ball in the final third and Luis Suarez was constantly and unsurprisingly frustrated by nearly everything while being contained for all but a couple of promising moments.
While sound defensively, Egypt’s attacking flair was minimal without Salah. Their counter attacks were slow and indecisive and there wasn’t much impetus in Egypt’s play going forward, but the plan from the Egyptian manager was working. His team hunkered down against Uruguay, focused on defense, and looked for a draw. Salah would be saved for Tuesday when Egypt face Russia.
As the match wore on that task proved more and more difficult as Cavani and Suarez turned up the heat in the last ten minutes. Then Egypt’s plan completely blew up in the ninetieth minute when Uruguay scored from a corner kick. It left Egypt with no time to respond. The disappointment on Salah’s face was heavy as the player hung his head.
For both Salah and Egypt, it’s a painful way to end a match where they played the group favourites level for much of it, but isn’t the end. Uruguay, as group favourites, always will have expected to win here, and a draw for the Egyptians would have been a bonus rather than the expected result.
Now, they have to refocus on Russia and Saudi Arabia, knowing if they can play as well in those two games as they did for most of this one they have a good chance to go through to the knockout rounds by finishing second in Group A. But they will need to bounce back, to not let this defeat undo them—and it certainly wouldn’t hurt their chances if Salah is ready to face Russia on Tuesday.