Review: How the Pharaohs played against Portugal
The Egyptian National Team collapsed on Friday to Portugal after putting on a strong and resilient performance being one goal up and fighting until the final minutes before falling to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace of headed goals to win the game for the Portuguese side.
After finally qualifying to the FIFA World Cup after 28 years of misfortune in the African qualifiers for the competition, things have changed in Egyptian football. Egyptian footballers all eyed spots on the team’s plane to Russia which caused several players to join clubs abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia, to get more game time and improve.
Since Egypt’s thrilling win over Congo in the round before last of the African qualifiers of the World Cup, which guaranteed Egypt’s qualification to the competition, Egyptian players have been enjoying their top performances with their clubs, respectively.
That high feeling the players had in the team’s camp preparing for the Portugal encounter in Switzerland was clear in the game and they proved that Egypt is a tough side that should be feared, after being in front in the game before capitulating in stoppage time thanks to five-time Ballon D’or winner Ronaldo’s double.
The National Team has taken many unjustified criticisms after the loss mainly because of Egyptians’ premature celebration of the win, which shattered people morally after the match was over. We bring to you a review of the overall performance by Egypt against Portugal.
Having your debut against a side as strong as Portugal is no easy thing but Shennawy managed to pull a decent performance despite his blunder in the first-half after giving Portugal an indirect freekick inside the box after handling Ahmed Fathi’s backpass in the first half. El-Shennawy provided a string of saves in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Andre Gomes to keep the Pharaohs up before Ronaldo scored a quick-fire last-gasp double.
Egypt’s central defenders Ali Gabr and Ahmed Hegazi looked great in the game; they were strong, calm and composed throughout most of the game. Hegazi proved the top defender he is in several tackles against Ronaldo and calmly taking him on in our own midfield at one point.
Gabr’s tough built physique helped him be the player he is today and in spite of not playing a club game since the 14th of January after moving to West Bromwich Albion, he was great for a player who hasn’t had any contact on the pitch for so long.
Both players are still inconsistent when it comes to positioning as Hegazi was partly a factor for Ronaldo’s first goal, having failed to mark him inside the box before Gabr made the same mistake in the second goal.
It is clear that age has taken its toll over our fullbacks, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel Shafy, as both players were struggling in the match, marking players like Ronaldo and Quaresma. Despite his age, Fathi is still able to give his best and display the captain’s charisma when needed, even if he is having a hard time with his opponent.
On the other hand, Sheefo is close to being done, making the same mistakes he made in the World Cup qualification, exposing his flank and not being brave enough to contact his marked men.
Mohamed Elneny and Tarek Hamed act as the team’s double pivot with both sticking to defensive duties more than pushing forward, but Friday’s match showed that they have very few football skills and they are limited players. None of them has the vision or the ability to build an attacking chance from the back and they are constrained to the sideway and back passes.
Abdallah El-Said has been giving nothing less than his best with Egypt since the 2017 African Cup of Nations and it is clear that he is the only one in the middle of the park who has that spark that Elneny and Hamed miss. Only El-Said in our midfield options can set you up in front of goal.
Mohamed Salah and Trezeguet were superb in the match, with Salah starring as always scoring a beautiful low curved long shot into the bottom corner of the net, as well as giving defenders a tough time marking him. Trezeguet has been running up and down the left flank throughout the match and killing himself on every ball as well as supporting Sheefo defensively and taking on defenders on the other side of the pitch.
Ahmed Hassan Kouka was a bit better than his appearances in the qualifier, looking stronger and faster but that is not what he is. Kouka is the type of player that sticks to the box and slots in goals, while Hector Cuper wants a Firmino-esque player like Marwan Mohsen.
Mohsen can drop to midfield to receive the ball and has the ability to be a stop to build a chance and support Salah on the counter attack with his speed. Marking Mohsen isn’t easy too as he is strong and works without the ball which could easily give players like Salah and Trezeguet a break to score goals.
The Pharaohs put on a great footballing show, something we are not used to. Instead of defending with all our players and relying on Salah on the counter attack to score a goal, we had possession and calmly built chances and reached their goal. Cuper is obviously improving his game, putting some attacking football into his mix instead of the park the bus tactics he adopted almost all his career with Egypt.
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