Uruguay 1, Egypt 0

Group A, Central Stadium, Ekaterinburg

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but Uruguay took its place atop Group A with Russia after a 1-0 win over Egypt, which kept Mohamed Salah on the bench with the shoulder injury he suffered in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid.

Egypt Coach Hector Cuper’s dual gambit — not playing Salah and going with Mohamed Elshenawy in goal — was so close to paying off, as the Pharaohs parried off every Uruguay chance and lucked out as Luis Suarez missed two surefire chances, one early and one late. But with a 0-0 draw and the one point it would provide tantalizingly within reach, Jose Gimenez rose above it all on a free kick to head Uruguay to victory.

Egypt still has two more winnable games against Russia and Saudi Arabia, the latter looking dreadful in Thursday’s opener. With Salah back, second place could still be theirs.

What’s next 

Egypt: vs. Russia in St. Petersburg, June 19.

Uruguay: vs. Saudi Arabia in Rostov-on-Don, June 20.


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In-game updates

Goal!

Uruguay, finally. Jose Gimenez takes a free kick from the corner and heads it in. At long last, 1-0. Egypt’s penchant for giving up set pieces late in the game finally comes back to haunt them.

The post!

Cavani’s free kick in the 88th was sterling and wouldn’t have been shopped by Elshenawy. It was, however, stopped by the post.

Cavani strike parried away

Cuper’s decision to go with Elshenawy is looking like a genius move. He blocks away a serious strike by Cavani to keep things scoreless.

It’s official: No Salah

Mohamed Salah will not be seeing the field today, as forward Ramadan Sobhy comes on to replace Amr Warda. Egypt is out of subs.

Suarez flubs another one

Moments later, Suarez dribbled his way into the front of the goal. And then kept dribbling until he was dispossessed by Elshenawy, who appeared to be injured on the play but stayed in the game. One of the game’s best finishers has been the opposite of that today.

Blast from Egypt

In the 72nd minute, Egypt gets its best chance of the match, an absolute rocket by Ahmed Fathi, but its hauled in by Fernando Muslera and we’re still scoreless.

Another Egypt substitute

Mahmoud Kahraba, a forward, comes on to replace Marwan Mohsen. Still no Salah. Uruguay has used two of its subs in an attempt to get something going, Carlos Sanchez on, Nahitan Nandez off and Cristian Rodriguez on, Giorgian De Arrascaeta off.

Egypt’s first substitute …

… is not Salah. Midfielder Tarek Hamed goes off injured in the 50th minute, replaced by England-born Sam Morsy.

Uruguay waking up?

Just one minute into the second half, Cavani found a streaking Suarez right in front of the goal, but Elshenawy kneed it away. A little more vigor from the favorites.

Halftime: 0-0

Uruguay has had the bulk of the possession and none of Egypt’s few chances have been all that worrisome for La Celeste, but it was a fairly uninspired 45 minutes from the favorites. There wasn’t much creativity on any of their chances from the wings, and the Pharaohs have been able to parry them away with ease. Suarez’s frustration, sparked by his missed gimme, seemed to build as the half wore on.

Will we see Mohamed Salah in the second half?

Uruguay’s army is watching

Members of the Uruguayan Army stationed across the globe wished the national soccer team good luck as they prepared to make their debut in the 2018 World Cup with their opening game against Egypt June 15. (Ejército del Uruguay via Storyful)

Oh no, Suarez

In the 24th minute, a corner kick finds its way to Luis Suarez just yards in front of the goal. With the ball on a platter for him and a yawning open space in front of him, he sends it into the side of the net. We remain scoreless. Uruguay starting to assert itself a little more.

Egypt gets a turn

Trezeguet gets into the box and sends one on Fernando Muslera, but it’s stopped. Egypt looking stout so far, even without Salah.

Uruguay comes close

Edinson Cavani, who went down clutching his ankle a few minutes earlier, sent a low strike toward goal in the ninth minute, but Mohamed Elshenawy dived to stop it. Uruguay’s first good chance.

The view from outside

Just a reminder that Central Stadium has 12,000 temporary seats that were added outside of its walls. Might be a whole lot of nope here for heights-sensitive people:

Some pregame thoughts

Mohamed Salah was a question mark to play in Egypt’s first World Cup match since 1990 because of the shoulder injury he suffered in the Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, and he’s not in the Pharaohs’ starting lineup Friday (his 26th birthday). Nevertheless, Coach Hector Cuper said Thursday that “we can say almost 100 percent he will play, barring any unforeseen factors at the last moment.” If you remove Salah’s goals from Egypt’s last 10 games, they’ve scored exactly twice, and in two warm-up friendlies without Salah this month the Pharaohs failed to score in a draw with Colombia and a 3-0 loss to Belgium. This further sets up Uruguay to win a World Cup group that isn’t exactly stocked with heavyweights.

Egypt would have had a tall task against Uruguay even with Salah, so sitting him to ensure total health for the crucial (and winnable) Group A matchups to follow against Russia and Saudi Arabia might be the right move. The race in this group almost certainly will be for second place.

Also of note: Cuper is going with Mohamed Elshenawy instead of Essam El-Hadary in goal, preventing El-Hadary from becoming, at 45, the oldest man to play in a World Cup game.

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