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
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
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
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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