Cuper's Salah gamble backfires as Egypt fall short
Hector Cuper's decision to allow Mohamed Salah more time to recover by leaving him on the bench against Uruguay almost paid off, but in the end it backfired on the Egypt coach.
Salah has been nursing a shoulder injury since his early exit from the Champions League final, the Liverpool forward having limped off following a clash with Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos.
His participation at the World Cup was in doubt initially, but Salah recovered in time to make the squad.
Cuper opted not to start him in Ekaterinburg, though, with one eye on upcoming the Group A matches with Russia and Saudi Arabia.
It looked like a wise move with 89 minutes on the clock as Egypt headed towards a goalless draw and a valuable point against the strongest side in the group.
However, Jose Gimenez's late winner secured a 1-0 win for Uruguay and left Egypt needing to win both of their matches if they are to have a chance of progressing.
Could Salah have made a difference on Friday? Probably. And in hindsight giving him the final 10 minutes could have given Egypt more of an attacking threat.
Cuper will hope it is not a decision that becomes the story of Egypt's World Cup adventure, but Salah is almost guaranteed to start in their second game with hosts Russia.
17 - Edinson Cavani had the fewest touches (17) of any Uruguay player in the first half, with none of those coming in the opposition's box. Restricted. #EGYURU #URU #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/IXlby59phP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 15, 2018
While Egypt rued the absence of their top star, Uruguay saw key men Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez fail to impress.
In 2017-18, the strike duo racked up 71 goals between them in all competitions, but World Cup strikes were not forthcoming on a frustrating day at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
Cavani had five shots across the 90 minutes, but only hit the target on two occasions – the Paris Saint-Germain marksman seeing a late free-kick thud into the post.
Meanwhile, Suarez could only test Mohamed El-Shenawy once, and wasted the clearest chance of the first half when he dragged a 23rd-minute effort wide from six yards.
Both will have to sharpen up if Uruguay are to live up to their pre-tournament tag as outsiders for the title.
In the end their blushes were spared by Gimenez's superb late header, but Uruguay looked far from the finished article and could struggle against Russia if they do not improve.