It was a game of waiting. Everybody waited, at first, for Mohamed Salah. And when he didn’t show up, neither in the starting line-up nor in any of the three substitutions, everybody waited for a Uruguay goal that increasingly came to see inevitable. Nothing much had happened for 80 minutes, but then Edinson Cavani forced a fine save from Mohamed El Shenawy and hit the post with a free-kick before, at last, the Egyptian resistance was broken by Jose Gimenez’s header from a right-wing corner.
Despite Hector Cuper’s bullish words on Thursday, Salah did not start, although his emergence for the warm-up, and a shot of his face on the big screen midway through the first half, were greeted with huge cheers. He has, after all, scored 33 international goals – one more than the rest of the Egypt squad put together. When Ramadan Sobhy came on with eight minutes remaining, though, it was confirmed that Salah would be not be involved.
The logic, perhaps, was there was no sense risking him in what is likely to be the hardest game in the group when his influence may be more valuable against Russia and Saudi Arabia (although that sort of reasoning perhaps took a blow with the hosts’ 5-0 win in the opening game and the realisation that Russia may be rather better than anticipated and Saudi Arabia rather worse).