FT World Cup 2018: Egypt with a surprise loss to Saudi Arabia
The age-old adage, “same story, just a different day” proved true for Egypt in their disappointing World Cup journey as they closed off their campaign with a shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia.
It was a game that had little but pride to play for, considering that both teams were already eliminated from advancing into the knockout rounds from Group A after losing their first two matches.
“The Pharaohs” drew first blood in their first convincing attack of the game when Mohamed Salah latched onto a long ball from Abdallah El-Said and chipped the ball over the advancing keeper into the back of the net.
Saudi Arabia, however, was given a penalty in the 41st minute, which was brilliantly saved by legendary goalkeeper Essam El-Haddary, who was celebrating a milestone during this game. The Egyptian goalkeeper became the oldest player to ever play at the World Cup, at 45 years-old, and capped that honor by cooly saving Fahad Al Muwallad's penalty.
However, Saudi Arabia was to be given another penalty on the stroke of halftime of which this time they were able to convert as Salman Al Faraj sent El-Haddary the wrong way to draw the two sides level. The Saudis then put the last nail in the coffin for Egypt as they snatched a winning goal at the very death courtesy of Salem Al Dawsari's close-range finish, which further emphasized a very humiliating Egyptian World Cup display.
As they bid farewell to the World Cup, Salah’s future with the Egyptian national team has been a key talking point. This comes after his involvement in a political row during his stay with the Egyptians in Chechnya during the World Cup. It is said that before the World Cup commencement, Salah was pictured alongside Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov at Egypt's base. Kadyrov declared Salah as an honorary citizen of Chechnya in a ceremony that Salah attended.
Nonetheless, this will be a very forgetful World Cup experience for Egypt especially because much was expected from the North Africans but instead, they choked at the biggest stage. Lessons were learned and hopefully “The Pharaohs” will bounce back and win the hearts of Africa once more.