A last-gasp winner from Jose Gimenez broke Egypt’s hearts as Uruguay stole a 1-0 opening day win in the FIFA World Cup.
It was a game of hard work against star reputations, but the South American side failed to live up to expectations for large periods.
With the game ticking away and Egypt close to grabbing a deserved point, Gimenez popped up give us some late drama on day two of the tournament.
Uruguay come into the tournament as many people’s dark horses, with promising talent Rodrigo Bentancur backing up the world-class striking force of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. On the other hand, a lot of Egypt’s hopes hinge on the performance of Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah, but the winger started on the bench for the opening game.
Despite their star names up front, Uruguay lacked a bite in the first half with Suarez in particular a shadow of his usual self. The Barcelona man had a great first chance after 14 minutes as he raced onto Guillermo Valera’s low pull-back, but his sweeping shot lacked a clear connection and the ball skewed well wide from 15 yards out.
Nine minutes later, Suarez was guilty of missing an even better opportunity. Egypt’s defending from a corner was naive and the ball fell perfectly for Uruguay’s main man, but Suarez hit the side netting from just five yards to the shock of everyone. At first glance, it looked as though Suarez had opening the scoring but in scenes reminiscent of Raheem Sterling against Italy in Brazil four years earlier, replays showed the ball flew wide.
Oscar Tabarez had a lot of work to do at half-time and Uruguay were perhaps guilty of taking Egypt too lightly. Their passing was poor, their tempo was slow and they looked nervous, but the manager’s words at the interval had the desired effect, at least temporarily.
In fact, Uruguay were desperately unlucky not to be in front just a minute into the second half. Cavani pulled the strings from a deeper position and Suarez broke into the box with all the zip and sharpness he is famous for, but a superb save from Mohamed El-Shenawy kept it goalless. It truly was a brilliant piece of goalkeeping, but Tabarez will have been pleased with his side’s reaction.
Before the game, the Uruguay boss would have been hoping all the chances fell for Suarez but in reality, it didn’t turn out how he would have thought. The ex-Liverpool man had another great opportunity as he latched onto Cavani’s flick, but rather than finish with a quick touch, he stuttered and El-Shenawy took the opportunity to get down and get the ball in his grasp.
The goalkeeper’s superb performance was quickly becoming the story of the game as the 29-year-old, who has had to wait for his chance as Egypt’s number one, continued to frustrate the dynamic duo of Suarez and Cavani. The PSG striker went close in the final stages. Suarez’s knockdown fell perfectly for a volley and Cavani caught it sweetly, but El-Shenawy had other ideas with an incredible diving save.
Cavani would go closer again though. With just three minutes to go, he stood over a free-kick from 20 yards and El-Shenawy could just watch as the ball flew past him, but thumped back off the far post before Uruguay failed to scramble a rebound into the net. Egypt looked like they were holding on, but heartbreak was waiting in the final minutes.
Carlos Sanchez’s deadball from the right wing was perfect for a commanding header and it was Jimenez who provided it with a stunning connection that flew into the back of the net. It was a goal full of relief for an undeserving Uruguay while Egypt could only look on with desperation.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon01)