Uruguay 1, Egypt 0: The Egyptian Pharaoh Remains on the Bench

Egypt and Uruguay played out 89 minutes of a scoreless draw today in a frigid Ekaterinburg Arena. The game was largely bereft of chances and quality, with neither team being able to find space to exploit, but as the teams fatigued, the game opened up. Just minutes after Edinson Cavani had a vicious volley saved by Mohamed El Shenawi, Jose Maria Gimenez delivered a powerful header from a Carlos Sanchez corner kick to give the winning goal to the South American side. This result meant that Uruguay and Russia emerged tied for the top two spots in Group A after one fixture, with Saudi Arabia and Egypt still on zero.


Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 8.17.50 PM
Just one example of the gritty play that this game had. Credit to Reuters UK.


  • Uruguay’s Weaknesses Exposed


Oscar Tabarez has favored the 4-4-2 for 8 years now, and for large portions of this match it proved to be highly ineffectual. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani simply could not find space to operate behind Egypt’s deep line, and when Egypt brought their wingers back to help out their defenders the Uruguayans were playing 2 versus 6. For the 4-4-2 to be effective, Uruguay need to have more box-to-box action from the central midfield position. When Suarez and Cavani would receive the ball, there was rarely any support from either the midfielders or the wingers. While Gimenez and Diego Godin were excellent today, with the latter making several forays with the ball into the heart of the Egyptian defense, Uruguay need to adjust some tactics before their next match; perhaps Tabarez will elect to start Lucas Torreira, a box-to-box creator who could fit into a mold similar to Naby Keita’s role for Leipzig, to provide that fluidity in attack.

  1.   The Conspicuous Absence of Mohamed Salah

Mo Salah was told he would play today, yet he remained on the bench. Why, in a game so void of pace and quality, would Hector Cuper leave his star player off the pitch? While he is still understandably recovering from injury, the World Cup group stage is often decided by one goal or one point. If Salah had come on to rescue a point against group favorites Uruguay, Egypt’s chances of advancing to the knockout rounds would have been much better. Being cautious is admirable, but perhaps not the smartest strategy from an Egyptian point of view.

  1.   Empty Seats, Empty Pockets

It was very disappointing to see the 35,000 seater stadium, which had recently received temporary external stands, only hold 26,000 people for this match. While admittedly this matchup is not the marquee type, the numerous empty seats on the lower bowl of the stadium certainly detracted from the typically electric World Cup atmosphere. As the ITV commentators mentioned, the exorbitant prices of the tickets likely priced out many of the local residents of Ekaterinburg. Perhaps Fifa would consider a different strategy to get more fans to the stadium, maybe by adopting a similar method of ticket allocation as UEFA does for the Champions and Europa League finals.



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