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World Cup Group A: There's only enough pride for one when Saudi Arabia and Egypt meet

Monday 25th June 2018

Pride is on the line as Saudi Arabia and Egypt clash on Monday. Neither side will be wanting to head home with no points on the board despite huge effort.

Five other sides are in a similar situation going into matchday three, though it's particularly tough to take from Egypt's perspective; having had their hearts broken by a stoppage-time header when they took on Uruguay, before Russia ran away with a 3-1 lead last Tuesday. Realistically, Saudi Arabia would not have expected much from this group. The fact they've conceded six unanswered goals speaks volumes. 

They have four injury doubts ahead of kick-off on Monday afternoon, with starting centre-back Osama Hawsawi (back) and midfielder Taisir Al-Jassam (thigh) their major concerns. Egypt only made the one change - Mohamed Salah - and have a fully fit squad to choose from.

Saudi Arabia 

FIFA Ranking: 67th

Saudi Arabia were desperately poor during their 5-0 thrashing by Russia on the opening day and although they improved somewhat against Uruguay, the 1-0 scoreline flattered them, in truth. 

To have any success against Egypt, it's imperative that they retain possession in key areas, reduce the amount of mistakes and create more genuine goalscoring opportunities. This could mean learning to embrace the basics, as opposed to trying to play out from the back regularly and getting thwarted even before they reach midfield and pose any threat. 

Choosing a 4-4-2 formation could benefit the Saudis. Fahad Al Muwallad cut a frustrated figure against Uruguay. He isolated in the attack and no doubt and the addition of a partner would help target him put the Egypt back line under significant pressure. Packing the midfield doesn't always work, either. The Asian side should roll the dice and go all out for the win.  


FIFA Ranking: 45th

Egypt meanwhile, have plenty to ponder ahead of this fixture. Do they make wholesale changes to a side that have been both unlucky and equally disappointing at this World Cup? 

Their key man, as everyone knows by now, is Mohamed Salah. But it's evident that he's not 100% fit and still remains one of their most dangerous players. Trézéguet and Ahmed Fathy have both impressed at times while West Brom centre-back Ahmed Hegazi has shown why it'll be difficult for Premier League clubs to resist making an approach for him this summer.

During their two group stage games, they have stuck to a rigid 4-2-3-1 formation, which provides solidity in midfield but also an attacking threat on both flanks - though they are yet to score from open play in 180 minutes and don't have a reliable centre-forward who Salah can trust to lead their frontline. 

Salah, despite his quality, is easier to stop when he doesn't receive adequate support from attack-minded teammates, while the team have collectively shown tendencies to slow down and struggle at times as the second-half wears on in games. Their last eight goals conceded in World Cup matches have all come in the second 45, which is a telling statistic. 


I expect Egypt to secure a hard-fought victory in this one, mainly because they have more talent at their disposal and their backline is far more convincing when compared to their Asian counterparts. 

That's not to say Saudi Arabia do not have a chance, especially after an encouraging display from Villarreal winger Salem Al-Dawsari last time out. The 26-year-old made two key passes, completed six dribbles and was an ever-present threat down the left-hand side. He will need to be even better to avoid a third straight loss here.

Mosope Ominiyi
Mosope is an enthusiast of young talent across European football. Former sports editor at VAVEL, he writes for a range of different sites - follow him @Football365Mo to keep updated with his writing on various platforms.

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