Uruguay began their 2018 World Cup campaign in dramatic fashion with a late 1-0 victory over Egypt on Friday afternoon.
Having huffed and puffed for the majority of the match, it looked as though the Egyptian backline would hold out, but a bullet header from central defender Jose Gimenez finally broke the deadlock in the 89th minute.
Despite picking up the three points, however, the South Americans will have plenty to do for the remainder of the group stage. For Egypt, meanwhile, the road to the last 16 might just have become a mountain.
How much does this result change the face of the group?
It does and it doesn’t, if that makes any sense at all. Uruguay and Egypt are expected to be the two qualifiers from this group, so the result between the two would be seen as relatively inconsequential, certainly against the results versus Saudi Arabia and Russia.
However, it can’t be denied that the three points give Uruguay far more breathing space right now – especially considering their next clash is against Saudi Arabia (who looked absolutely abject on Thursday – while Egypt have to face a Russia side still on a high from their comprehensive 5-0 opening victory. Suddenly the pressure is on for Egypt – anything but a victory and their dream could be over.
Should Uruguay be worried about Luis Suarez?
Uruguay’s switch to a 4-4-2 is supposed to maximise the talents of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, for the types of players that they are now at this stage of their respective careers. However, while many might have expected the former to go missing, it was the latter that failed to show up against Egypt.
Obviously desperate to impress after seeing his last two World Cups end in disgrace, Suarez snatched at chances, missed some glorious opportunities and generally tried too hard throughout. Had Uruguay failed to win he might feel under even more pressure to score against Saudi Arabia, but he might now be more relaxed on Wednesday with that win under their belts.
Will Mo Salah be risked against Russia?
Almost definitely. Hector Cuper sprang a surprise on Thursday when he suggested that Salah would be fit for the clash against Uruguay, with the fear that the Liverpool forward was being rushed back, so to see him left on the bench for the entire 90 minutes was that bit more realistic.
That being said, expect him to start against Russia. Egypt are desperate for a victory now and nothing they produced against Uruguay without Salah suggested that they confidently have the beating of Russia. They looked devoid of ideas without him and they can’t afford to play like that again. Cuper will probably take his chances on a half-fit Salah rather than leave him out again and risk elimination.
It’s a tough position for both the manager and Salah to be in – both men, not to mention the fans, will be desperate for Salah to play, and that will probably take precedence. Only time will tell if it that turns out to be a mistake or not.