Uruguay left it late as they clinched a dramatic 1-0 win over Egypt thanks to a 90th-minute winner by Jose Maria Gimenez at the Krestovsky Stadium on Friday
The match was a keenly contested affair, with both sides playing more or less at a similar level. But, while Egypt dominated the battle in midfield, they just couldn’t get past the solid Uruguay defensive line. La Celeste, on the other hand, created most of the openings that were created in the game.
However, they could do precious little from the chances that came their way, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani far from their best. As the match slumped towards a goalless draw, Jose Maria Gimenez leapt the highest from Carlos Sanchez’s free-kick powering his header into the top right corner to earn Uruguay a 1-0 win.
Oscar Tabarez’s men are now well placed to top Group A, with Russia the realistic opponents to be the group winners. Egypt, on the other hand, will be hoping Mohamed Salah can recover from his injury to return in their next game against Russia. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at three players who impressed the most in Saint Petersburg.
The best player on the pitch on Friday afternoon, Godin led from the front for Uruguay against Egypt. That the Pharaohs failed to conjure up a single meaningful chance was largely down to Godin’s personal output as well as the masterful way he organised his side’s backline.
This meant that Egypt simply failed to trouble Fernando Muslera, restricted to rare half chances at best. On a personal level, Godin couldn’t have produced a more perfect performance. The Atletico Madrid man completed 100 per cent take-ons, won 100 per cent tackles, made five clearances, five interceptions and won four duels.
Those are just staggering numbers by his own sky-high standards, and reason enough why Uruguay ended up with a clean sheet. That he was also a key part of the build-up play meant that there are unlikely to be a lot more convincing performances at the World Cup in the coming days.
Hector Cuper threw a curve ball when he named his first side of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with Mohamed El-Shenawy preferred to Egypt captain Essam El-Hadary. It was particularly a major surprise as this was the first competitive international game for the 27-year-old, and it ended up denying El-Hadary a World Cup record.
Judging by his performance though, it looks like El-Hadary may end up missing out on a rare record as El-Shenawy was a big reason why the match dragged on till the very last minute of regulation time. The shot stopper was vocal behind the backline, which he helped organised smartly, as a result of which Uruguay got very little space to work with.
When the Uruguay attackers did get past the defensive line, he was there to stop just about everything that came his way, denying Luis Suarez twice and Edinson Cavani late on with a smart save. But, just when it looked like he had done enough to earn a clean sheet, this next player scored a fantastic goal that El-Shenawy could do nothing about.
Jose Maria Gimenez
Last, but certainly not the least, is the player who scored the all-important match winner on Friday. At the back, Gimenez was a colossal figure all throughout the game, bettered only by his captain Godin as far as defensive performance is concerned.
The numbers paint a magnificent picture for him too, with Gimenez winning three tackles, making eight interceptions and as many clearances while being dribbled past just once. And, to sweeten the deal, the Atletico Madrid man scored the goal that clinched the three points.
As Carlos Sanchez took the free-kick, Gimenez towered above two defenders before powering a perfect header past El-Shenawy into the top right corner. The goal kicked up a frenzied celebration as a tense game ended with all three points for La Celeste. Manchester United will likely be lamenting the fact that he snubbed them to sign a new five-year deal with Atletico Madrid.