- Egypt lost to Uruguay, 1-0, in heartbreaking fashion on Friday, giving up the winning goal in the final minute of the teams’ World Cup opener.
- Egypt played the game without its star player, Mohamed Salah, who was injured in the Champions League final but was considered available for the match, possibly as a second-half substitute.
- The loss left Egypt with little room for error with two games remaining in group play.
The script seemed set for Mohamed Salah to make the World Cup debut of a lifetime.
On his 26th birthday, Salah was set to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in nearly 30 years and announce his arrival on biggest stage in football.
But it was never meant to be, and Salah had to watch from the bench as his teammates valiantly fought through 89 minutes only to lose to Uruguay, 1-0, in heartbreaking fashion on Friday.
Egypt’s decision to bench Salah for its biggest game in decades was baffling to supporters excited to see his spark on the pitch, but it was not unfounded.
Salah was injured in the Champions League final in late May while playing for Liverpool, and his status for the World Cup was questionable heading into the tournament. The early word was that Salah would be ready for Egypt’s second match, but as the start drew nearer there were hopes that he would at least make an appearance in the team’s debut, with Andrew Keh of The New York Times saying “the sense is that he will get about 30 minutes as a substitute.”
Unfortunately for Egypt, Salah was apparently not ready to go yet, leaving the team to face Uruguay, expected to be its toughest challenge in the group stage of the tournament, without its star player. Despite its missing offensive centrepiece, the Egyptian side held firm, limiting Uruguay’s chances and stifling them just as a goal looked as if it might be on the horizon.
But Uruguay finally broke through in the 89th minute, with José Giménez playing hero by getting his head on a free kick for the dramatic winning goal.
Gimenez gives Uruguay the lead in the 89th minute! pic.twitter.com/SlBmzx9TAX
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
After the game, manager Hector Cuper was left to second-guess his decision to leave his star player on the bench through the final stretch of the game, saying “Perhaps if Mo had been on the pitch today, the outcome would have been different but we can’t know that.” He went on to say that Salah’s absence was a cautionary measure, and that the team expects him to be ready to go for the remaining games of the tournament.
Egypt has two winnable games left in the tournament’s group stage, against the host nation Russia and then against Saudi Arabia. It will advance to the knockout stage if it wins both, but that will certainly be an uphill battle, especially for a team with the most gruelling travel schedule in the tournament.
The world is waiting to see Salah have his moment. Sadly for football fans though, it wasn’t meant to be on Friday.
More World Cup 2018:
- 8 teams to root for in the World Cup if your favourite country went bust in qualifying
- World Cup Power Ranking: Where every team stands heading into Russia 2018
- World Cup 2018: Everything you need to know about all 32 teams competing for the biggest prize in football
- The one player you need to know from every country competing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup
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