Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1399, (28 June - 4 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Tragic defeat

Egypt were defeated in all three World Cup games but at least Salah left his mark and Al-Hadari wrote history, reports Marawan Zayed


photo: Osama Abdel-Nabi
photo: Osama Abdel-Nabi

Our Egyptian king Mohamed Salah made sure he left his mark on the World Cup as he notched his second goal of the tournament in as many appearances, first against Russia and on Monday against Saudi Arabia. Obviously, the third group game was meaningless for both Egypt and Saudi Arabia since both teams had been already eliminated when they lost to Russia and Uruguay respectively in the second round. However, they both played for pride in an open and entertaining game where both teams defended poorly and missed plenty of chances until Saudi Arabia scored at the death to win 2-1.

Salah opened the scoring in the 22nd minute before Salman Al-Faraj equalised for Saudi Arabia from a controversial penalty in the 45th minute. The winning goal came in the 94th minute through Salem Al-Dawsari to ensure a disastrous World Cup campaign for the Egyptian side. Egypt’s coach Hector Cuper started the game with the same lineup he used against Russia apart from goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari who took his place in goal to write history by becoming the oldest player to play in a World Cup at the age of 45 years and 161 days to beat the previous record held by Colombia’s goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon who was 43 years old when he appeared at the 2014 World Cup.

The Saudi team started the game better and somehow pressured our national team in the opening 15 minutes without really creating any meaningful chances on Al-Hadari. After that the Egyptian side started to get into the game until Salah scored a brilliant goal in the 22nd minute as he received Ahmed Fathi’s sublime long pass and lobbed the goalkeeper under pressure from two Saudi defenders in stunning fashion to score his second goal of the World Cup after scoring against Russia from a penalty in the previous game.

The goal gave the Egyptian players a huge boost as the following 10 minutes witnessed some brilliant football from Cuper’s men. Salah and Trezeguet missed two glorious chances even though Salah’s would have been spotted by the VAR as offside anyways if he had scored. Trezeguet was once again a menace on the left hand side and had his lovely moments with Salah but as has been the case all tournament, the skillful winger lacked the final ball. In the 41st minute Al-Hadari wrote history yet again as he became the oldest goalkeeper to save a penalty in the World Cup when he brilliantly saved Fahd Al-Muwallad’s powerful penalty to give his side every chance of ending the first half leading.

However, another penalty, this time a hugely controversial one, was given to the Saudi side in the last minute of the first half as the referee decided that Ali Gabr committed a foul on Al- Muwallad. It looked extremely soft from each camera angle and the referee took his time with the VAR to decide if he’ll give it or not. Almost two minutes later he gave it and gave Gabr a yellow card much to the shock of Egyptian fans. This time Al-Hadari had to pick the ball from the net as the first half ended in a 1-1 draw with Amr Warda coming on to replace the injured Abdullah Al-Said in the last seconds of the half.

The second half started terribly for the Egyptian side as the Saudis completely controlled the game. It took us a full 13 minutes to get out of our half. After that, the game started to get boring and both teams created some chances without really coming close to scoring. Al-Hadari saved two close range headers in the final 15 minutes of the game. Ramadan Sobhi and Kahraba came on but both did very little as the game seemed destined to end 1-1. However, some shocking defending in the last few seconds of the game saw Al-Dawsari score from a half volley from inside six yards to give his side all three points and send the Egyptian side home bottom of the group with zero points.

The game ensured a hugely depressing and heartbreaking experience for Egyptian fans who had waited 28 years to see their national side back in the World Cup. We did absolutely nothing right in the whole competition. We’ll go back home as one of the worst teams if not the worst to take part in Russia 2018, thanks to shambolic performances from everyone starting from the Egyptian Football Association, passing by Cuper, all the way to his players.

We didn’t play attractive football, we didn’t even defend well which Egypt is supposed to be good at as we conceded six goals in three games. We scored only two goals in a pretty easy group, finished bottom of the group and clearly lacked the determination and spirit to make the country proud.

A lot has been said about the lack of organisation in the Egyptian camp from celebrities visiting the players throughout the World Cup, to the issue of Salah meeting the leader of Chechnya to many, many other issues. It’s everywhere on the internet that Salah is thinking about retiring from international football due to his unhappiness with how the Egyptian association is using him.

We all hoped to see our national side in the next round of the World Cup after a 28-year absence and we surely wanted to see this side winning its first ever game in a World Cup after failing to do so in our two previous appearances but the reality was the complete opposite. Even our national side of the 1990 World Cup managed to collect two points from an extremely difficult group as they drew 1-1 against The Netherlands, 0-0 against the Republic of Ireland and lost by a single goal to England.

At that time, it was believed that we played terrible football and depended only on how well we could defend to get anything from any game. This time, in 2018, it seems that Cuper tried to do the same but shamefully it didn’t work out as we failed to collect a single point in a relatively weaker group when compared to 1990.

Who is responsible for this disaster? Is it the Egyptian association? Is it Cuper and his staff? Is it the players? Or all of them? The answer is certainly all of them as we didn’t see anything right off the field and on the field. The coming few days will surely say a lot so let’s wait and see,

As for the other game of the group played at the same time, Uruguay demolished hosts Russia 3-0 to ensure they finish the group with maximum points from all three games as goals from Luis Suarez, an own goal and Edinson Cavani meant Uruguay scored five goals and conceded none as they sealed the top spot of the group. A draw would have been enough for Russia to finish top of the group thanks to their massive goal difference going into the game but the hosts couldn’t handle Suarez and Cavani to finish as runners up. Uruguay and Russia will play the two teams that will qualify out of Spain, Portugal and Iran in Group B as Morocco was already eliminated.

Heartbreaking is the least we can say about this group.

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