An exciting game could be in store in Yekaterinburg as two of the world’s best forwards go head to head. Uruguay take on Egypt in the first of the Group A games. All eyes will be on Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah (if fit) as they battle to fire their respective nations to victory.
Egpyt v Uruguay
13:00 BST, Friday 15th June
Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
World Cup History
Uruguay have won the World Cup on two occasions. Their first was the inaugural World Cup held in their own nation, beating rivals Argentina 4-2. Their second success came 20 years later, beating host nation Brazil 2-1.
In the 16 tournaments since their last winning performance, Uruguay have qualified ten times, reaching the semi-finals three times. The latest being in 2010.
In contrast to Uruguay, this tournament will only be Egypt’s third World Cup. The seven-time African Cup of Nations winners last qualified for the finals in 1990. The time before that was in 1934. ‘The Pharaohs’ have never progressed past the group stage.
Road to Russia
Uruguay finished second in their qualifying group, ten points behind winners Brazil and two ahead of Argentina. During 2016, qualification looked odds-on, but a poor 2017 saw just two wins, leaving La Celeste sweating.
Egypt went into their final qualifying game needing a victory to top their group and progress to the World Cup. Ahead of their game against Congo, the Egyptian manager admitted the pressure was so intense that he was on medication for high blood pressure. The Pharaohs ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a Mohamed Salah penalty in the 94th minute. The last-gasp victory gave them a four-point lead at the top of the table ensuring they reached the World Cup Finals for just the third time in their history.
Pre-World Cup Friendlies
Uruguay’s form in pre-World Cup matches has been a mixed bag of results. A 0-0 draw against Poland was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Austria and a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan.
Egypt have taken part in five friendlies this year. However, results have not given confidence. Three defeats and two draws were not ideal preparation for the competition.
Ones to Watch
Undoubtedly the star man for Uruguay is Luis Suarez. The Barcelona forward has been a key player for his country now for many years. Not only are his goals important but his work ethic must also be admired. Fans will be hoping he can stay on the pitch long enough to guide the team to a respectable finish.
Like Uruguay, Egypt have one main man. Mohamed Salah. The ‘Egyptian King’ will need to be on song for every minute if any success is to be had. Although heavily reliant on the Liverpool star, others will need to support and protect him. If it all comes together, Egypt could surprise a few.
However, the Egyptians are sweating on the fitness of star player Salah. After being injured in the Champions League Final, there were doubts as to whether the Liverpool forward would make the World Cup.
He is, however in the squad, and has begun training. He could, therefore, make an appearance in the first group game if passed fit. It remains to be seen whether he will be risked and given the green light to play, or kept for the remaining two group matches.
Uruguay are hoping that Salah is ready to face them. Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera insisted that they would love to see ‘The Pharaohs’ key man fit to play. “I’m with Luis (Suarez), I like the best players to play, I train with the best and I want the best players to play, key man fit to play.”
Uruguay are expected to play a 4-4-2 formation with Suarez and Edinson Cavani playing up front together. If these two are on form, Uruguay should have too much for Egypt. This is likely to be coach Oscar Tabarez’s last tournament after 12 years in charge. Expect a typical Uruguay performance as they battle to give their coach the best send off possible.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper is expected to stick with his defensive philosophy. Four defenders behind two defensive midfielders, one of those being Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny is likely. Whatever happens, Egypt are looking to just enjoy this tournament. This attitude, plus the skills of Salah, could take them past the group stages for the very first time.