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London 2012: Egypt 3-1 Belarus – Rise of the Pharaohs
After a frustrating tournament thus far, the Pharaohs finally claimed a victory with a 3-1 score line over Belarus. With Belarus only needing a draw, it was natural for them to take to the tie with a defensive mentality. However, Egypt managed to pull together and attain the valuable 3 points that set them on course to the quarter-finals of the Olympic Football Tournament.
Egypt needing to win the match lined up with a 4-3-3 formation. Saad Samir comes into the defense due to the suspension of Mahmoud Alaa. Ramzy opted for a defensive midfield trio of El Nenny, Shehab Ahmed, and Hossasm Hassan. Given his performance against New Zealand it was a shocking, yet unsurprising, decision to start Metab in the attacking trident with Mohamed Salah and Abou Treika.
Gutor – Kuzmenok, Politevich, Kozlov, Polyakov – Alexsievich, Baga, Dragun, Bressan, Gordeichuk– Kornilenko.
It took Egypt less than a minute for them to concede the first corner. This was an ominous start given the opening goal in the previous game against New Zealand came from a similar corner against the run of play. Luckily, the danger was dealt with. It took Egypt some time to get into the match with more than a quarter of an hour passing before they managed to get their slick short passing game to come into action. Already though, Abou Treika and Salah were continuing to display the good understanding they had from previous games.
The first real chance of the game came from a hard shot from outside the area by Hossam Hassan, which forced the Belarusian Gutor to make a save. Chances were few and far between as with two very deep defensive lines, it was clear that Belarus did not see any need to attack the Egyptian goal, only needing a draw to advance. Egyptian fans were feeling frustration though as the Egyptian players didn’t seem to be aware of the imperative nature of a goal.
Metab continued his form of the previous game with an awkward looping header, and a few pot shots that didn’t work the keeper. Ahmed Fathi was also displaying a poor touch in trying to control a dangerous pass, and Abou Treika seemed slow to react to passes from his teammates. He seemed tired. Our most dangerous player of the half was Mohamed Salah, but even he too sent a shot into Row Z despite glimpses of brilliant play.
The half almost ended on a sour note, with Egypt LUCKY to get away when Kuzminov missed the target with a free header from a last minute corner. Despite the majority of possession, their was no incisiveness from the Egyptians, and the slow paced and dull nature of the 1st half did not do well for the confidence. Belarus were all to happy to rely solely on counterattacks with only one player staying around the center circle.
At this stage Brazil was doing their part in the other match leading New Zealand by 2 goals at St. James’ Park.
Halftime saw Hany Ramzy make an attacking change by bringing on under-23 top scorer Marwan Mohsen in place of midfielder Shehab Ahmed. With Abou Treika moving into the trequartista role, this was a much more offensive variant of the 4-3-3 that started the match. With Egypt dominating possession, it made sense for Mohamed Salah to push in more towards the center as he and Fathi to this point were essentially doing the same role of crossing in from the right wing.
Egypt knew that they had to penetrate the heart of the rigid Belarusian defence much more than they did in the first half. From early on Mohsen looked dangerous, breaking the offside trap but too slow to make something of the chance. Egypt were getting closer and it seemed they received the pep talk of pep talks as they took to the match with more spirit.
Belarus against the run of play almost dealt Egypt a heavy blow if not for a heroic block by Islam Ramadan on Kornelenko inside the Egyptian box. A more attacking Egypt gave Belarus more chances to counter and the match began to open up with chances on both ends. However it was Egypt to open their account first, after 56 minutes, Abou Treika lofting a beautiful pass from inside his own half to an onrushing Mohamed Salah who used his speed to get by the defenders and slot the ball passed Gotur for the first goal of the game, and his third of the tournament. Once again the partnership of Abou Treika and Salah sparks life into the Egyptians. With the Belarusians now in a position where they were the ones chasing the game, more chances were certainly coming. Despite an odd pass to empty space, Abou Treika seemed a changed man in this half, forcing a corner with a dangerous low free kick.
Egypt’s goal unsurprisingly sparked the Belarusian attack. Saad Samir made a heroic stop as Belarus were through on goal with the equalizer at their grasp. And another dangerous attack by Belarus was snuffed out by the veteran Fathi, while at the other end a chance to increase the the gap was missed. After going on a long run, Meteb selfishly does not pass to a well positioned Salah and instead tries to work space for a shot, only to then lay it off when the chance is lost. Shennawy is also called into action for the first time making a double save on Korilenko, although the attacker was deemed offside on the rebound.
Within minutes of Omar Gaber coming on for Ahmed Fathi, Marwan Mohsen scored Egypt’s second and the decisive goal of the match. From a play started by Abou Treika in midfield, the young attacker latched onto a cross by potential Arsenal target Islam Ramadan to open his tournament account. Then finally on the 76th minute, the moment Egyptians worldwide had been waiting for, Hany Ramzy subs out sub-standard Emad Metab for Saleh Gomaa. This invigorated Egypt side wasn’t finished as substitute Omar Gaber unselfishly squares the ball to Abou Treika who taps the ball into an empty net to guarantee Egypt’s progress to the next round. Slight scare for Egypt fans as it appeared Mohamed Salah was injured but thankfully he continued shortly after.
Voronkov ruined the party by scoring from a gifted free header on minute 87. Shambolic defending ensued and Egypt were lucky to escape conceding a second in quick succession. However the match was a fore gone conclusion and Egypt successfully, after making life difficult for themselves, finsished second in the group and now eagerly await their next round match against Group D winners Japan.
The key to Egypt’s Olympic charge continues to rest on the sublime partnership between the experienced Mohamed Abou Treika and the young and dynamic Mohamed Salah, who both were essential to unlocking a resilient Belarus defense.
Egypt improved defensively this game, but were caught napping near the end with the goal that was conceded. There is a problem at defending set pieces that so far hasn’t been addressed and there is a worrying habit that players seem to turn off and expect someone else to accomplish their marking duties.
Once again, Emad Metab started the match for Egypt. And once again, we had front row seats to a display of endless running with no end product. He again had his chances and took none of them. His highlight being too selfish to pass the ball to a better positioned teammate, and his only contribution was berating his younger colleagues when they wouldn’t pass him the ball regardless of how bad his position may have been. Marwan Mohsen in 30 minutes showed he deserves to start in his place.
King Fut’s Man of the Match:
Saad Samir (Egypt)
Despite only making the starting XI due to Mahmoud Alaa’s suspension, Samir quickly established a solid partnership at the heart of the Egyptian defense with Ahmed Hegazy. Saad made numerous standing tackles throughout the match, often regaining Egypt possession, and also made a heroic tackle as Belarus were through on goal, quickly after Egypt took the lead. An outstanding first performance at the London 2012 Olympics makes Saad Samir King Fut‘s MOTM, narrowly edging out captain Abou Treika.
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