Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Egypt left heartbroken

Ronaldo’s last gasp goals sink the Pharaohs, reports Marawan Zayed


Salah, Egypt’s man of the match

‘Egypt vs Portugal’, ‘Salah vs Ronaldo’. These were the headlines of every Egyptian and Portuguese newspaper last week as both nations started their World Cup preparations by facing each other in Zurich, Switzerland, on 23 March.

With 92 minutes already played it was 1-0 for the Egyptian side thanks to a brilliant goal from no one other than man of the moment Mohamed Salah. However, the lack of big game experience and naivety showed as we threw away a historic win by letting Cristiano Ronaldo score two goals in the space of three minutes to win the game for his side in the 95th minute.

How on earth did we manage to let the win or even a draw slip away is something we’ll live to regret as a win over the European champions was enough in terms of morale boosting before the World Cup begins in June.

Egypt’s coach Hector Cuper started the game with most of the players who are expected to start the opening game of the World Cup. Our Argentine manager started the game with Mohamed Al-Shinnawi who was expected by many pundits and fans to be the third goalkeeper in the World Cup after Essam Al-Hadari and Zamalek’s Ahmed Al-Shinnawi (no relation) but it seems that Cuper might have other plans especially after a very solid performance from the Ahly goalkeeper, making his international debut.

Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel-Shafi were the fullbacks while Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr completed the back four. In midfield, Mohamed Al-Nenni and Tarek Hamed played as two central midfielders behind the attacking trio of Salah, Abdallah Al-Said and Trezeguet while Braga’s Ahmed Hassan Kouka was given the nod up front. Out of these 11 players it seems only Al-Shinnawi and Kouka are uncertain starters while the other nine will most probably be in the starting XI facing Uruguay in the opening game of the World Cup. Gabr’s situation at West Brom is worrying as he has not made a single appearance so far and is excluded completely from the match squads.

As for the performance of the Egyptian side, we were very solid during the game and didn’t give Ronaldo or his fellow attackers any clear-cut chances even though Ronaldo seemed in the mood from the very first minute. The current best player in the world troubled the usually rock solid Fathi big time throughout the game with his silky skills and superb dribbling but at least Fathi ensured the goal machine stayed away from goal until his late exploits.

Ronaldo manoeuvres Egypt’s defender Abdel-Shafi

Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva weren’t given a sniff on goal as they were shackled brilliantly by Hegazi and Abdel-Shafi until both players were substituted in the second half. One thing we know for a fact: Cuper knows how to make things difficult for any team facing us regardless of how strong they are and that’s exactly what happened against Portugal as they struggled to create chances apart from some shots from outside the box and numerous crosses that were dealt with perfectly by Al-Shinnawi.

Moreover, the most dangerous chance in the first half fell to Al-Said from a brilliant lay-off from Trezeguet who met Al-Nenni’s cross. However, Rolando and goalkeeper Beto both threw themselves in front of Al-Said’s close range shot and the ball hit both players to deny the Egyptian side the opening goal in an exciting and balanced first half when both teams seemed eager to play football and test themselves even though neither managed to find the back of the net.

The second half saw the Egyptian side push forward more and more until the deadlock was broken in the 56th minute by no other than our star man Salah thanks to a splendid counter- attack that saw him receive the ball from Trezeguet, exchange passes with Al-Said and finally find the back of the net with an exquisite finish from just outside the box to send the Egyptian fans in the stadium crazy.

From that moment until the last three minutes of the game we were extremely comfortable and didn’t seem under any kind of threat from Ronaldo and his teammates as Cuper even opted to rest Salah and Al-Said, replaced in the 76th and 66th minutes respectively by Shikabala and Amr Warda with the latter in particular shining.

Marawan Mohsen was the other meaningful substitution as he replaced the ineffective Kouka in the 62nd minute. The Ahly striker, coming off an injury which sidelined him for one year, will be very pleased with his performance as his link-up play was excellent.

Trying to see out the game, Hossam Ashour replaced Tarek Hamed in the 88th minute but no one really saw what was coming in the last few minutes. The 92nd minute witnessed the equaliser as Ronaldo scored with a header from inside the six-yard box after deceiving the two centrebacks. He didn’t stop there. Three minutes later another bullet header from him which needed video replay won the game for his side and left Egyptian players and fans heartbroken.

There are plenty of positives for Cuper. At least we now know we can cope with any team in the World Cup since we were on the verge of beating the European champions. Al-Shinnawi played a great game even though he could have done slightly better in the first goal and Cuper will surely be encouraged by the performances of Mohsen and Warda off the bench. The overall performance of the team was very good and will give the players confidence that they can now compete with anyone.

As for the results of the national sides which are with us in the World Cup group, only Uruguay won as they convincingly defeated the Czech Republic 2-0 thanks to goals from the scary duo Suarez and Cavani with Suarez scoring from a penalty he won while Cavani scoring an outrageous overhead kick. Group fellows Saudi Arabia managed to come from behind to draw 1-1 against a strong Ukraine side to show they’ll be up for the fight like us.

And World Cup hosts Russia whom Egypt will also face suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil after a 13-minute collapse in the second half and despite playing brilliantly in the first half they should have scored one or two goals. Miranda opened the scoring in the 53rd minute while Coutinho doubled the score from the spot in the 61st minute before Paulinho sealed the win with a close range header in the 66th minute.

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