Egypt make fifth-place play-off at Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup after dramatic win against Mexico

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Dramatic late goals from Moustafa Shaaban and Mohamed Gamal saw Egypt get past Mexico 6-5 in extra time to head into the Huawei Intercontinental Beach Soccer Cup fifth-place play-off.

In what was a thrilling contest to kick off the penultimate day of the tournament, Mexico led 5-4 going into the final four minutes of normal time.

However, Shika levelled to take the game into a fourth frame before M. Gamal won the game for Egypt, leaving Mexico to battle it our for seventh against either the UAE or Paraguay.

Lugiani Gallardo’s penalty put Mexico in front before a smart volley from Jose Vizcarra into the bottom left corner doubled the advantage midway through the first frame.

Egypt steeled themselves and proved more threatening as the period went on but fell further behind when Jose Maldonado extended the lead in acrobatic fashion.

A quickfire brace from Hassan Ahmed gave Egypt a way back into the contest midway through the second period although Mexico remained dangerous as David Rodriguez volleyed past Mohamed Seddik.

Twenty-five seconds before the second interval, A. Hassan reduced the deficit to one with a thumping right-foot finish, which made for a tense finale as both sides sought to book their place in the play-off for fifth.

Momentum swung back in Egypt’s direction when Hassane Hussein equalised six minutes from time but Vizcarra responded by rattling in his second off the post.

Egypt 2

However, with 22 seconds remaining, Shika grabbed a crucial equaliser to set up extra time before Gamal popped up in the final minute of extra time to win it for his side.

Goals: 0-1: Gallardo, min. 10 (1); 0-2: Vizcarra, min. 7 (1); 0-3: Maldonado, min. 2 (1); 1-3: A. Hassan, min. 7 (2); 2-3: A. Hassan, min. 6 (2); 2-4: Rodriguez, min. 3 (2); 3-4: A. Hassan, min. 0 (2); 4-4: Hassan, min. 6 (3); 4-5: Vizcarra, min. 4 (3); 5-5: Shika, min. 0 (3); 6-5: M. Gamal, min. 1 (extra-time)

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Analysis as Toni Kroos is among four Real Madrid stars chronically underperforming

Alex Rea 2/11/2017
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Zidane looks on as his side are beaten by Tottenham

Real Madrid have lost two games straight – cue hysteria.

With all due respect to Los Blancos supporters, there has always been a maddening trend of reacting to low ebbs with a wave of hysteria.

It’s always been that way and it’s part of the club’s fabric.

But in their defence there is reason to be concerned both with the collective unit and with certain individuals.

Indeed, since the start of the season Madrid have been infected with a lethargy which can often strike after periods of sustained success.

Some of the culprits are not players you might expect, though.

After Tottenham’s 3-1 win at Wembley in the Champions League, we look at four players who have been chronically underperforming of late.

REAL PLAYERS UNDERPERFORMING

Toni Kroos

First up is a name you perhaps wouldn’t expect.

For a player who can seemingly do it all, Kroos is doing not much at all right now and when the elegant pass master is slicing truly basic cross-field balls horribly off target, you know something is wrong.

He’s been a far cry from the Kroos in control of recent seasons and it seemed like an impostor had inhabited Real’s midfield against Spurs because for a ball retention specialist, he was doing his utmost to gift possession away.

It was not an isolated performance either.

His drop in form this season has mirrored Madrid’s and according to whoscored.com, the German’s pass success rate is currently his worst ever for Los Blancos both domestically and in Europe.

While it’s easy to pinpoint one stat and blow it up, it does form part of a wider issue in that Kroos is a world class midfielder who is completely ineffectual at the moment.

His pass economy has been revered for years but his distribution has lacked his usual precision and punch.

And past reputation shouldn’t mean a star like Kroos can escape criticism because it’s not just his inaccuracy with the ball which warrants denunciation.

Defensively, he’s offering no protection. The 27-year-old made no tackles, no interceptions and no clearances against Spurs.

With the full-backs pushed up the pitch, Real were left exposed on the counter and Kroos’s positional negligence piled the pressure on Casemiro and the two centre-halves who were caught out repeatedly.

There’s a motivational issue as well – although that can be said for the entire team – because he looks disinterested and that in turn is creating problems when he’s not paying attention.

But Kroos is not alone…

Toni Kroos is chased down by Christian Eriksen

Toni Kroos is chased down by Christian Eriksen

Marcelo

One of the most basic defensive errors was committed by Marcelo for Spurs’s opener and it came to epitomise not just his dreadful performance at Wembley but his alarming season on the whole.

Tactically, Madrid got it horribly wrong. Marcelo was effectively operating like a left-winger against a team renowned for its cut-throat ability on the counter.

Playing at the Bernabeu so high up the pitch you could maybe understand but away in the Champions League to a team like Tottenham, it was just brainless.

As too, was Marcelo’s marking for the opener.

He was one of four players covering Dele Alli in the box and the Brazilian had no reason to be so sucked into the area.

It left Kieran Trippier with ample space and time to cushion a first-time ball into Alli for a simple finish.

Marcelo going forward is such a danger but having to think quickly when working back has always been a weakness.

His passing all season has been wayward also and he’s been dispossessed far too many times for a player of his undoubted quality.

In the defeat to Girona he was equally as bad. Consistently exposed by Maffeo in the first half his irresponsible average position on the halfway line left a gulf of green in behind.

You add in his naive straight red card for kicking out at Levante defender Jefferson Lerma and you’ve got the best left-back from last season seemingly doing all he can to be left back on the bench.

Marcelo and Eric Dier compete for the ball

Marcelo and Eric Dier compete for the ball

Sergio Ramos

It’s time to talk about Ramos.

There are captains who lead by ability and there are captains who lead by personality.

It’s a fair assessment to say the Spaniard falls into the latter category and maybe Pepe – for all his character flaws – was more of the former.

The combination worked well, the two opposing traits married to form a fortified Madrid defence.

But of course, there is no more Pepe and without the Portuguese alongside him Ramos has looked awfully suspect this season.

That was intensified at Wembley as Ramos was without the athletic Raphael Varane in at centre-back, who with his speed across the ground would have provided more cover than the versatile but limited Nacho against Tottenham’s pacey assault.

And Ramos’ demeanour has been one of pubescent frustration at times this season. In periods of crisis you appeal for calm and the skipper has been anything but.

He was flustered by Girona’s intense pressing and his temper boiled over when he barged in to Alex Granell in added time.

Then against Spurs his duel with Mousa Dembele saw an ugly incident in which he repeatedly looked to connect with an elbow during an aerial battle for the ball.

His aggression has always been a source of strength but it’s been a flaw as well and his temper now is filtering negatively into his overall performances.

The warning sign was there against Girona and the nadir came against Spurs when he was bullied by Harry Kane, nutmegged by Alli and then booted by Dembele.

Like Madrid, Ramos isn’t enjoying himself right now.

Sergio Ramos makes an interception in the loss to Spurs

Sergio Ramos makes an interception in the loss to Spurs

Casemiro

For the neutral, Casemiro was comical for but anyone of the Madrid persuasion the Brazilian was no laughing matter.

There were two moments – both of which involved him hitting the deck – which accentuated his poor form of recent weeks.

The first was his gravity defying dive after the most minute touch from Harry Winks and the second was his near face plant as he tried to defend Alli’s second goal.

Both laughable but for different reasons.

In his defence, Casemiro completed five tackles, the most by a Madrid player but his balance and body shape was pivotal in allowing Alli to stride through from midfield for the second.

It was a similar story against Girona when he completed six tackles, also more than any other Real player, but missed the crucial one which allowed Cristhian Stuani to score the equaliser.

The concern for Zidane is that Casemiro strengthened his midfield last season, allowing Kroos and Luka Modric the freedom to create and dictate.

Losing that solidity has meant Real have been swallowed up in the middle. They look disjointed and disorganised and much of that can be pinned on Casemiro.

Casemiro on the ball against Spurs

Casemiro on the ball against Spurs

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Real Madrid should trust Zinedine Zidane to put things right, just like he did the last time his team was in crisis

Andy West 2/11/2017
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Zidane has come under fire after two straight defeats

Real Madrid were terrible in Wednesday night’s shocking Champions League collapse at Wembley, and they are now undoubtedly in crisis.

But relax. Calma, as they say in Spain. Zinedine Zidane has been here before, and he is perfectly capable of leading the team into calmer waters just as he did the last time.

The state of the Madrid team right now is strikingly similar to the mess that Zidane inherited from Rafa Benitez a couple of years ago. Not that bad, admittedly, but similar.

Wednesday’s defeat at Tottenham showed that Los Blancos’ collective team structure is broken. Look again at the English team’s goals, and the most notable thing is just how easily they were scored.

Firstly, Harry Winks has the ball in midfield and, under no pressure at all, picks out a diagonal pass into the run of Kieran Trippier, who is equally unmarked as he delivers a square ball for Dele Alli to convert.

Then Alli picks up the ball in midfield, drives towards goal without being challenged other than by Casemiro’s laughable falling over efforts, and without any further impediment unleashes a shot which deflects off Sergio Ramos and into the net.

And finally, a swift but uncomplicated counter attack allows Harry Kane to slip a simple pass into the stride of Christian Eriksen, who finishes with aplomb to send the disbelieving Wembley crowd into raptures.

Three goals for Spurs, and all of them were fashioned in a straightforward manner with little defensive resistance, indicating that Madrid’s problem is the team’s general lack of shape, balance and organisation rather than the loss of form being so obviously encountered by individuals such as Marcelo and Karim Benzema.

It’s all rather familiar for Zidane, because that was more or less the same situation when he suffered the first defeat of his reign against Atlético Madrid at the Bernabeu in February 2016.

A dejected Zidane after the defeat to Atletico in his first game in charge

A dejected Zidane after the defeat to Atletico in his first game in charge

Back then, Atlético strode through the middle of the pitch without a care in the world as Koke linked with Filipe Luis and Antoine Griezmann finished without any Los Blancos defender anywhere near him. Rather like Spurs at Wembley on Wednesday.

Zidane’s team were in a shocking state after that derby defeat nearly two years ago, and it looked like Zidane had a major task on his hands to turn them into contenders for any major honours.

But four months later, they lifted the Champions League trophy for the second time in three seasons after stringing together a run of 15 wins in 17 games which also ran Barcelona extremely close for the league title.

Zidane achieved that turnaround by making significant changes, notably strengthening his midfield by making Casemiro an unquestioned starter and placing a greater emphasis on attacking width.

It may well be the case that the French coach decides to make similarly drastic changes now, as well. Considering the squad at his disposal, the potential to do so is there.

What those changes are, it’s impossible to say. Describing what is wrong with the team is easy and obvious, but identifying how their problems can be rectified is another matter. And as football is not an exact science, it’s not the case that there is ‘a’ solution anyway – there could be several.

It won’t be easy because the team currently has an awful lot of room for improvement. But in Zidane, they have someone who has been there, done that and come out on the other side with winners medals galore.

They should trust him to put things right again, just like he did the last time his team was in crisis.

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