Ekaterinburg, Russia (June 15, 2018) — Egpyt and Uruguay appeared to be heading for a scoreless stalemate. But Jose Gimenez ensured that wasn’t the case.
The 23-year-old central defender won five aerial duels on the day. His final one proved to be the decider, with his 89th-minute header giving Uruguay a late 1-0 victory in their World Cup opener.
Jose Gimenez Header Gives Uruguay Late Win in World Cup Opener
The match signified Egypt’s return to football’s showpiece event for the first time since 1990. In the opening match of their third appearance at the tournament, they faced two-time champion Uruguay for just the second time ever. The two sides faced off in Alexandria, Egypt on August 16, 2006 with La Celeste coming away with a 2-0 win.
One of the biggest storylines heading into this match was the status of Mohamed Salah. The talented attacking player suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Liverpool in their loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final. While in the squad, Salah began the game on the bench.
Uruguay appeared to have the opening goal just past 23 minutes in via Luis Suarez. The talismanic presence up top collected the ball with plenty of space on the far post. At first glance, his shot appeared to find the net. But replays showed he mishit the ball a tad and it ended up glancing off the side netting.
Suarez’s effort was pretty much the only legitimate opportunity for either side in the first 45. Though Uruguay enjoyed a 56-44 edge in possession and a 6-4 advantage in total shots, Egypt actually tested opposing goalkeeper Fernando Muslera more directly. The Pharoahs put two shots on target compared to La Celeste’s one.
Almost immediately after the second half kickoff, Suarez had another chance to open his account. The Barcelona forward made a well-timed run into the box to come onto a perfectly weighted pass from fellow forward Edinson Cavani. But Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy was up to the task, making a sprawling save with his knee.
The two Uruguayan attackers who’ve combined for 93 international goals connected once again in the 73rd minute. Once again, Cavani did a great job anticipating Suarez’s run with a quality service into the box. But for the second time in the half, El-Shenawy kept the game scoreless, this time scooping the ball off Suarez’s feet as he dribbled toward him.
In the 82nd minute, when Ramadan Sobhi came on as Egypt’s third sub, it became clear Salah would not see action in their opening match. But manager Hector Cuper’s most important decision came in starting El-Shenawy over 45-year-old veteran Essam El Hadary. Almost immediately after Sobhi came on, he made a diving save to his left in denying a powerful shot from Cavani to keep the game scoreless.
A few minutes later, Egypt conceded a free kick just outside the box and nearly paid the price when Cavani’s curling shot hit the right post. But their luck ultimately ran out one minute short of the 90th. After another foul set Uruguay up with a set piece on the right side of the field, Carlos Sanchez whipped a cross into the box. Neither Cavani nor Suarez figured into the picture. Instead, it was Gimenez who headed the ball past El-Shenawy to put Uruguay ahead for good.
Both teams face a long journey of over 1,400 miles for their next match. The Pharoahs take on host nation Russia in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, June 19 (2 p.m. ET, 9 p.m. local). Meanwhile, La Celeste face a reeling Saudi Arabia squad looking to rebound from the 5-0 rout they suffered at the hands of the hosts in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday, June 20 (11 a.m., 6 p.m. local).