Some football enthusiasts have hailed Egypt, one of Africa’s representatives at the Russia 2018 World Cup, for their resilience against a star-studded Uruguayan side in spite of their 0-1 loss.
Uruguay kicked off their Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Egypt at the Ekeratinburg Arena on Friday.
Jose Jimenez’s 90th minute header gave Uruguay a crucial win over Egypt who posted a decent display in the encounter.
The win ensured that Uruguay moved to the second spot in Group A with three points, behind log leaders and tournament’s hosts Russia only by a superior goal difference.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia are currently placed third and fourth respectively on the log”
A cross section of football enthusiasts noted that Egypt showed that they deserved to be at the World Cup stage.
Tune Popoola, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) said that the Egyptians held their own and indeed showed that their qualification to the World Cup was not a fluke.
“They held on for as long as they possibly could but got nothing to show for it at the end of the game, except pride.
“The Pharoahs of Egypt matched the South Americans with their pace and skill all through the encounter but failed to create scoring chances to match their efforts.
“Indeed that late goal broke the hearts of at least 37 million Egyptians and so many others in the African continent.
“Very disappointing but I am sure the Egyptians can still win a game or two and qualify to the next round,” he said.
Nduka Ugbade, an ex-international said the Egyptians matched the Uruguayans in every part of the field, adding that it had to take something extra special to break the team’s resilience.
“The Egyptians were excellent man-for-man, from the goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy to other departments and they stood firm for so very long.
“The Pharaohs played like a team and worked for each other and that was why they proved a difficult nut to crack by a star-studded side which boasted of the likes of Luis Suarez, Cavani and Diego Godin in their ranks.
“They indeed made Uruguay work very hard to win their opening game of a World Cup final for the first time since 1970,” he said.
Ugbade, who was an assistant coach of the Nigeria under-17 national football team, urged the Super Eagles to take a cue from the Egyptians, adding that they must work in harmony and not as individuals.
Emmanuel Babayaro, also an ex-international praised the goalkeeper who he noted put up a man-of-the-match performance from the beginning to the end of the game.
“I can’t fault goalkeeper El Shenawy in any way as he stood tall in between the sticks, frustrating the Luiz Suarez and Edinson Cavani on so many occasions and coordinated a very compact defence line.
“The goalkeeper is as good as his defence so I must give kudos to the defenders as well for doing a good job.
“It is hoped that their performance will inject the Super Eagles the confidence they need going into their opening game against Croatia on Saturday,” he said.
Babayaro, who was a former goalkeeper and one of Nigeria’s heroes at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics, urged Francis Uzoho and Ikechukwu Ezenwa to emulate the performance shown by El Shenawy in goal.
“El Sharawy played a very big role in keeping the game to the very last minute and if not for a little loss in concentration by the defenders he would have earned himself a clean sheet.
“So, whoever is manning our goal post must exude confidence going into the game against Croatia and ensure that they keep their cool and coordinate a compact defence line at all times,” he said.
Fidelis Ilechukwu, the Head Coach of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side MFM FC, noted that the absence of Egypt’s star man Mohamed Salah was the bane of the team.
“I think on the balance of play, Uruguay had the better chances over the 90 minutes. This is not to say they were the better team.
“The Pharoahs on their part dictated the tempo of the game and had lots of possession which forced the Uruguay side to sit deep and rely solely on the counter-attack.
“Egypt have a lot to be proud of even though they lacked the cutting edge in the final third due to the absence of their talisman, Salah who was an unused substitute,” he said.
Liverpool forward Salah was named in Egypt’s World Cup squad despite being injured in the Champions League final and was given the nod to play in the team’s opening game.
It was, however, obvious the striker was still not at 100 per cent fit as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury.
“In my opinion Salah could have been given a run by the coach even if it was just 10 minutes to the end of the match because he needs a little bit of game time and match fitness as he hadn’t played for a long time.
“His presence obviously would have added the much needed bite to the Egyptian attack, but I think the team gave a good account of themselves even though it wasn’t a convincing performance by the Uruguayans themselves.
“Suarez looked a little bit out of shape, maybe a few pounds overweight and could have been more dangerous in attack if he was a little bit sharper but I am sure he will get better as the tournament goes on.
“I don’t think this is the strongest group in the tournament, but for Uruguay it was about getting the three points and moving forward to their next game” he said.