Saudi Arabia ended their FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign on a high as they beat Egypt to clinch third place in Group A at Volgograd Arena on Monday.
The match started on an edgy note, with the ball mostly circulating in the midfield as chances came few and far between. In fact, while Saudi Arabia were creating the better opportunities to score, Egypt would go on to grab the lead against the run of play after Abdallah Said played Mohamed Salah through, with the Liverpool superstar making no error to chip the ball into the net.
Salah soon had another chance to double Egypt’s advantage, but ended up fluffing his lines this time. As the match approached half-time Saudi Arabia got an opportunity to level the scores when Ahmed Fathy was adjudged to have handled the ball, but Fahad Al-Muwallad took a tame penalty that was saved by Essam El Hadary.
The Egypt captain wasn’t going to be second time lucky as Saudi Arabia got another penalty which was duly converted by Salman Al-Faraj. And, it was the Green Falcons who would go on to clinch all three points late in the second half after dominating the final 45 minutes, as Salem Al-Dawsari scored the winner. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at three players who shined the most in the game.
The lynchpin in midfield for Saudi Arabia was in his elements all through the game, as he looked to make things happen all through the game. The biggest threat for Saudi Arabia, Al-Faraj made six key passes in the game, while also completing 11 of his 13 long balls, which always kept the Green Falcons in business.
Most impressively though, the player showed nerves of steel as he converted the key penalty at the stroke of half-time, after Fahad Al-Muwallad had already missed his and Al-Faraj’s own spot-kick was delayed by five minutes due to VAR checks. But, in the end, Al-Faraj scored without a fuss, putting Saudi Arabia on course for victory.
Essam El Hadary
A momentous day for the Egypt captain as he finally got his World Cup bow, which made him the oldest player to ever feature at the tournament. A passionate figure at one end of the pitch, El Hadary looked to keep the Pharaohs in the game for as long as possible, with Saudi Arabia constantly in the ascendancy in the final hour or so of the game.
He first made a fantastic save to deny Fahad Al-Muwallad from the spot, while making a couple of other stops as the defence started faltering. But, he had no chance to save the couple of goals that Saudi Arabia did score, diving the wrong way for Salman Al-Faraj’s penalty before being beaten fair and square by Salem Al-Dawsari. A record breaking day ended in heartbreak.
Salem Al-Dawsari was another player who meant business on the day, constantly troubling the Egyptian backline with his pace and dribbles, of which he completed five on the day. His link-up with Al-Faraj, in particular, was delightful as the Villarreal loanee proved to be an outlet in and around the final third.
All through the match, Al-Dawsari had been inching closer and closer to the elusive goal, but it was starting to look like it might not be for him. But, just as the regulation time ended, Saudi Arabia produced a promising play, which ended with a piercing strike by Al-Dawsari – he finally had his elusive goal and Saudi Arabia got the win to finish their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign on a perfect note.