The second day of the 2018 World Cup had a lot to live up to.
Expectations had already been shattered by Russia’s 5-0 obliteration of Saudi Arabia, which meant that Egypt and Uruguay, favourites to progress from Group A before a ball had been kicked, needed a victory in Ekaterinburg to maintain pressure on the runaway hosts.
La Celeste never found much of a rhythm, however, and much of their possession was wasted, with Luis Suarez having a particularly off day. Despite Mo Salah remaining on the bench, it seemed as though Egypt had secured a point.
Enter Jose Maria Gimenez. The Atletico Madrid centre back rose high above Ahmed Hegazi to head home in added time at the end of the game to leave Salah in tears in the dugout.
In a game that sparked into life right at the end, here are five things we learned.
1 No Mo Salah
Schrodinger’s footballer dominated the headlines on Friday afternoon.
Mohamed Salah was simultaneously there and not there, with the cameras cutting back to him frequently as his teammates struggled to navigate a way past Diego Godin and co.
Three substitutions came and went during the course of the early-kick off, and three times the travelling Pharaohs' fans were left dismayed as their talisman was passed over.
Perhaps it was the fact that Egypt seemingly headed to the final whistle having held Uruguay to a draw, negating the need for Salah to risk himself against two physical centre backs in Godin and Gimenez.
They’ll be hoping that the Liverpool star will have a far more prominent role against Russia and Saudi Arabia.
2 Uruguay fail to progress
Only Brazil finished ahead of Uruguay in CONMEBOL qualifying, and a glutton of youthful talents suggested that Oscar Tabarez’s side would be more technical and accomplished than they have been at previous tournaments.
Rodrigo Bentancur and Giorgian De Arrascaeta, however, failed to generate much excitement in a team that seemed slightly awed by the occasion. Bentancur in particular was hesitant in possession and, as such, service into Suarez and Edinson Cavani was poor.
A 1-0 win is no disaster, but given the pre-match hype, it felt like disappointment. If La Celeste want to have a long run in the tournament, their performance must improve.
3 Two's a crowd up front
With Diego Forlán’s retirement from international football in 2014, the struggle to fit all of Uruguay’s forwards into the starting XI appeared to have lightened.
Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani scored nearly a hundred goals between them this season, but they failed to register against stand-in goalkeeper Ahmed Al-Shenawy.
Occasionally, it looked like the forwards impeded rather than complimented one another, making the same runs into the same spaces only to spurn some decent chances.
It resulted in Cavani often occupying a wider position, where has influence is somewhat marginalised.
4 Al-Shenawy shows his mettle
Two things dominated Egypt’s build-up to the World Cup.
One was the form of Mohamed Salah, and the other was the tantalising prospect of Essam El-Hadary appearing in goal.
Should he have appeared, the 45-year-old would have taken Colombian ‘keeper Faryd Mondragon’s record as the oldest player in the tournament’s history.
Instead, Hector Cúper plumped for Al-Shenawy, who justified his selection with several timely saves.
5 Gimenez Gimme
For 89 minutes, it looked as though Uruguay’s dominance wouldn’t be rewarded.
Step forward José Maria Gimenez, whose last-ditch header secured a well-deserved victory.
The goal capped a wondrous performance from the centre-back, who starred alongside teammate Diego Godín throughout. Even if Salah had made it off the bench, he would have struggled to make his way past a partnership that is used to shutting out forwards of all stripes at Atlético Madrid.
This was 'Garra Charrua' at its finest; blood, sweat, toil and, ultimately, the victory that sets up Tabarez’s side for progress into the next round.
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