The plan to stop Mohamed Salah and other Egypt v Russia tactical talking points

Chris Bailey 18/06/2018
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That happened fast – Tuesday heralds the start of the second round of games as a buoyant Russia march on to St Petersburg where they’ll face an Egypt side poise to throw in Mohamed Salah from the start.

The hosts could not have dreamed up a better script for their 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia on opening night while Egypt, at their first World Cup in 28 years, were sunk by a last-gasp Uruguay goal on Friday.

Below, we take a look at the key tactical points ahead of the crucial Group A clash. Check here for an analysis of the key players.

FROM CHERYSHEV WITH LOVE

Denis Cheryshev

Dmitri Cheryshev, the father of Russian opening-day hero Denis, declared that Mohamed Salah is not ‘world class’ ahead of this game. He best hope that his son prove those words right.

Cheryshev played a starring role after being subbed on for Alan Dzagoev against Saudi Arabia and this time he’ll have to earn his spurs by keeping Salah quiet down his side.

Egypt undoubtedly will channel all their attacks through Salah as, against Uruguay, most of his team-mates dissolved promising situations through sheer panic. He’ll take on more of a role through the centre for Egypt, though expect him to drift right when the mood takes him.

Left-back Yuri Zhirkov isn’t the most nimble player nowadays and Cheryshev, a traditional winger with a decent amount of pace, will have his fair share of tracking back to do.

SALAH NEEDS A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

MohamedSalah (2)

Salah can do many things for his team-mates but unfortunately he can’t pick up a video game controller and move them around himself. He can’t control the ball for them, nor pass the ball for them, and he certainly can’t be expected to win a game entirely on his own.

Therefore it’ll be interesting to see whether Hector Cuper makes some changes after a decidedly lacklusture attacking display against the Uruguayans.

History says he’ll be reluctant to tear up his best-laid plans though expect Salah to replace the ineffectual Marwan Mohsen, who had only recently returned from an ACL injury, as the furthest man forward.

It’ll be – see Salah, pass to Salah. Will that be enough?

EGYPT’S NET PROFIT

FBL-WC-2018-RUS-TRAINING

Igor Akinfeev soaked up the atmosphere but very little else in Moscow on Thursday as Russia enjoyed a glorious start to their home World Cup.

The goalkeeper has been a pillar of the national team since he was a teenager some 13 years ago and while he can still pull off cat-like reflex saves, the pressure that was missing in Moscow could get to him when the stakes are higher.

In the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, the 32-year-old’s error against South Korea – palming a long-range shot into the net over his head – is just one of a few bloopers in his time. Expect Salah to offer up more than a few pot shots.

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Liverpool star Mohamed Salah and Chelsea target Aleksandr Golovin duel in Russia v Egypt key match-ups

Chris Bailey 18/06/2018
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Set to start? Mohamed Salah.

That happened fast – Tuesday heralds the start of the second round of games as a buoyant Russia march on to St Petersburg where they’ll face an Egypt side poise to throw in Mohamed Salah from the start.

The hosts could not have dreamed up a better script for their 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia on opening night while Egypt, at their first World Cup in 28 years, were sunk by a last-gasp Uruguay goal on Friday.

Below, we take a look at the key protagonists ahead of the crucial Group A clash.

ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN v MOHAMED SALAH

18 06 2018 key battles Russia v Egypt 1

Denis Cheryshev delivered a spectacular two-goal performance off the bench against Saudi but while he was the gift that kept giving, Aleksandr Golovin was busy with the wrapping paper all game.

The 22-year-old, a reported transfer target for Chelsea and Arsenal, provided sumptuous assists – from the left and then right – for Yuri Gazinskiy and Artem Dzyuba, and sparked the attack that led to Cheryshev’s first. That free-kick at the end wasn’t bad, either.

Egypt’s defence should be a trifle sterner in St Petersburg but with the CSKA Moscow man in form, Russia possess a rare ingenuity in attack that emboldens the averages pieces around him.

Egypt supporters waited … and waited. But Salah never moved from the bench against Uruguay, no matter how many times the television director cut away to the pensive-looking Liverpool star.

Tears reached his eyes after Jose Gimenez’s late, late header but Hector Cuper did the right thing by keeping him on the bench – the next two games against Russia and Saudi are eminently winnable, and he has had another four days in which to recover from his shoulder injury.

Salah doesn’t have the pliable pieces in attack as he does around him for Liverpool, but his pace on the break with Yuri Zhirkov and Sergei Ignashevich – the duo’s combined age is 72 – down his side could be devastating.

YURI GAZINSKIY v MOHAMED ELNENY

18 06 2018 key battles Russia v Egypt 2

Not one person on the planet had Yuri Gazinskiy down to score the first goal at the World Cup and his normal duties lie much further back on the pitch.

Alongside Roman Zobnin, who was similarly impressive against Saudi, a physical Gazinskiy has the opportunity to bully an Egypt midfield that was overrun at times by a dogged Uruguay.

There are few frills to Gazinskiy but he is an accurate enough passer – his job is to win the ball back and feed the likes of Golovin ahead of him.

Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny must come to the fore for Egypt on Tuesday, with midfield partner Amr Warda expected to play but carrying a knock due to the back bruise he suffered against Uruguay.

Elneny was certainly the most composed Egypt player on the ball in that heart-breaking defender as, time and time again, he watched players such as Trezeguet and Marwan Mohsen panic in possession ahead of him.

The onus will be on him to be the link man between defence and Salah this time around while holding his own against a powerful Russian midfield. He’ll run all day – but can he hold his ground when needed?

SERGEI IGNASHEVICH v AHMED HEGAZI

18 06 2018 key battles Russia v Egypt 3

Sergei Ignashevich was whisked out of retirement as Russian defenders fell like dominoes in the build-up to the World Cup and it has been a glorious return indeed.

Facing an admittedly toothless Saudi attack, the 38-year-old alongside junior partner Ilya Kutepov restricted lone frontman Mohammed Al Sahlawi to just 17 touches before he was hauled off five minute before full-time.

Even if he were to shave a decade off his age, though, speed was never Ignashevich’s strength and while he should have little trouble shutting down an indecisive Egyptian attack based on the Uruguay match, he now has a certain Mr Salah to contend with.

At the other end, Ahmed Hegazi is the leader in this Egyptian defence and he blows hot and cold – as any West Brom fan will attest to.

He is a solid defender when Egypt sit back and often throws his body on the line. Isolate him though and the 27-year-old is prone to making rash decisions.

His distribution from the back leaves a lot to be desired, too. Against Uruguay his pass success rate was just a touch over 65 per cent – that’s a number that just invites pressure too often.

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Robert Lewandowski v Sadio Mane headline intriguing Poland v Senegal Group H clash

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Key men: Mane and Lewandowski.

Poland and Senegal clash on Tuesday in a finely-poised Group H World Cup match-up.

With Japan and Colombia making up the quartet, it is fair to say the two qualifying berths are really up for grabs.

Here, we take a look at the key battles as both teams lock horns at the Spartak Stadium.

The First Line of Defence

KAMIL GLIK v KALIDOU KOULIBALY

Experienced Monaco centre-back Glik has had a shoulder problem leading up to the tournament but it is vital he is fit and firing for the Poles.

The presence of Thiago Cionek and Artur Jedrzejczyk alongside him in a rigid back three has made Poland hard to break down and they know if they keep things together, there is always a chance of nicking a goal at the top of the pitch.

The Napoli powerhouse, viewed as one of the top central defenders in European football, could be playing in a Manchester United shirt next term, but for now, is tasked with making sure Senegal are focused and all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Both Glik and Koulibaly are top defenders and crucial to their respective sides’ chances.

In-demand: Kalidou Koulibaly.

The Midfield Engine Room

GRZEGORZ KRYCHOWIAK v IDRISSA GUEYE

Krychowiak, who spent last season on loan at relegated West Brom but is due to return to parent club Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the new campaign, drops anchor to give licence to Poland’s more attacking stars to get forward and influence proceedings.

Meanwhile, Everton midfielder Gueye was one of the few Toffees stars to bank much credit after a miserable campaign overall for the Merseysiders.

Never short of energy or shy of launching himself into a tackle, the 28-year-old is the heartbeat to this team alongside West Ham destroyer Cheikhou Kouyate. Their experience should be telling in a group whereby margins are set to be slim and most matches could be finely poised.

Poland's midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak plays the ball during the international friendly football match between Poland and Chile at the Arena Poznan stadium in Poznan, Poland, on June 8, 2018. (Photo by ANDRZEJ IWANCZUK / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDRZEJ IWANCZUK/AFP/Getty Images)

Poland’s midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak is a midfield enforcer.

The Main Men in Attack

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI v SADIO MANE

Amazingly, this is the Bayern Munich hitman’s first World Cup and he will be desperate, at the age of 30, to make his mark in what could prove to be a really pivotal summer.

The pace, energy and trickery of Piotr Zielinski, who enjoyed a stunning season with Napoli, will help provide ammunition but ultimately it is down to Lewandowski to fire Poland out of this group.

Another man who needs no introduction really is Mane. The Liverpool ace enjoyed a sensational season and is one of African football’s finest-ever exports.

If he dazzles, Senegal have a real chance of progressing.

Senegal's forward Sadio Mane gestures as he takes part in a training session of Senegal's national football team on June 14, 2018 in Kaluga during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Sadio Mane is set to be a huge star at the World Cup.

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