Review: Three Egypt friendlies, zero wins. Time to panic?
Though Egypt’s three friendlies were merely opening acts to the main event, they left much to be desired from the Salah-less side ahead of the World Cup.
Egypt played three friendlies against Kuwait, Colombia, and Belgium in preparation for the World Cup in the current break. The Pharaohs won none of the games, drawing Kuwait and Colombia and losing to Belgium. Friendlies are never a fully accurate way to access the team, especially without star player Mohamed Salah, but it would be difficult to not be concerned by some of the performances.
An interesting friendly choice to begin with, the match against Kuwait was looked to as a possible indicator of what the match against Saudi Arabia would be like. However, Egypt quickly learned that the two sides would not be comparable. First, with all due respect to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia is a much stronger side with many of their players playing in the country’s top three teams. Second, if the friendly against Kuwait was supposed to be an indicator then there is much concern since Saudi Arabia’s B team beat Kuwait in the Gulf Cup earlier this year.
Despite these facts, it would be unfair to heavily analyze the friendly. Héctor Cúper put out a starting eleven that will for sure not play together at Russia. For example, it will be hard to see Ramadan Sobhi and Sherif Ekramy starting since both saw little game time last season. Though the choices were odd, we saw the importance of Mohamed Salah to the Pharaohs. For example, Egypt only had one shot on target the entire match and it came in the 81st minute when Ayman Ashraf equalized for the Pharaohs.
The decision making issue was something that was noticed in all of the games, but against an opposition like Kuwait was felt much more. Multiple times we saw players like Sobhi, Warda, and Kahraba rush decisions in the final third leading to attacks losing their danger and crosses and passes going out to corners or throw-ins. In addition, Egypt have failed to figure out how to take advantage of winning corners and throw-ins deep in our attacking third. As a result, the attack dies before it could really gain momentum. Not only does the team not know how to efficiently use crosses and throw-ins, Egypt continue to concede goals from crosses.
Similar to the match against Kuwait, the match against Colombia was meant to be a benchmark for Egypt’s opening match against Uruguay. The starting line-up was a little bit closer to Cúper’s preferred 11, with the exception of Sam Morsy and Saad Samir. On face value, a 0-0 draw against Colombia is a good result considering their attacking prowess. However, the performance was not one to be applauded.
Yes, no goals were scored, but within 35 minutes Egypt had failed to clear three crosses which Colombia’s players headed just wide or high off target. With the number of goals the Pharaoh’s have conceded from crosses in the past, why has there been no improvement in defending them? It wasn’t just the defense that was shaky, but Mohamed El-Shennawy made countless poor decisions in coming out of the goal and in dealing with crosses. However, it isn’t just him at this point. Each one of Egypt’s keepers made costly mistakes in the minutes they played in the friendlies.
The game left many asking if we would ever score. With Salah and Abdallah El-Said combining, Egypt were scoring in almost every single game. Now, with just Abdallah El-Said and the lack of clinical alternatives it seemed as if Egypt would never score. Does the national team have a replacement for Salah? Quite simply, the answer is no. No one can truly replace the Liverpool attacking midfielder, but it does not seem as if Héctor Cúper has devised away to overcome the loss of such a vital player.
All of these concerns were once again highlighted in the match against Belgium on June 6.
By far Egypt’s hardest friendly of the three, Belgium were on a 17 match unbeaten streak when they faced the Pharaohs. The line-up was the most expected for Egypt with the exception of Trezeguet and Salah potentially starting. It took one minute to highlight Egypt’s first problem: poor tackles. It was a theme throughout the match and was seen multiple times through Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny, and Ahmed Fathi. Not only does it put unnecessary pressure on the referees to give out red cards, it could also cause penalties to be awarded against the Pharaohs.
Marwan Mohsen had a good match, minus his chance shortly before he was subbed off. He was chasing balls and putting pressure on the Belgian defense. However, it is not practical that he is the only striker in the squad and it was evident when he was substituted out of the match. With Trezeguet’s introduction, Amr Warda moved into the striker position, one that he rarely played in for Atromitos Athens. When Mahmoud Kahraba was subbed in, he moved in place of Warda. It was easy to see that neither of them were comfortable playing there, with Kahraba offside more times than could be counted.
In spite of the lack of a striker, Trezeguet added life to what had become a very uncreative match from the Pharaohs. His performances in Turkey have gained attention from some of the country’s biggest clubs and he has become an even more important player for the national team with Salah’s injury. Trezeguet’s decision making and passes were key to what little Egypt created in the second half.
But the biggest talking point will be the defense and goalkeeper. With a combined age of 166 between the starting five, the players are not as young or versatile as they once were. El-Hadary made crucial saves, yet was unable to control the rebound in the build-up to Lukaku’s goal. Ahmed Fathi was easily dribbled past as Carrasco set up Hazard, while the entire defense was left ball-watching after El-Shennawy came out of the goal in Fellani’s goal. It became clear that in matches against stronger offensive teams, the “solid” defense would be easily pierced with chance after chance.
What do you think? Is there something the national team did really well or really poorly? Comment below!
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