Saudi Arabia and Egypt meet in their final Group A clash on Monday with both teams looking to bow out of the 2018 World Cup on a winning note.
2018 FIFA World Cup
25 June 2018
Kick-off: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Volgograd Arena
Referee: W. Roldan
Assistants: A. Guzman, C. de la Cruz
Fourth official: R. Montero
Egypt 2-1 Saudi Arabia (Pan Arab Games) 25/11/2007
Egypt goalscorers: H. Ghaly (38′), E. Moteab (45′)
Saudi Arabia goalscorers: Y. Al Qahtani (55′ pen)
Players to watch:
Fahad Al-Muwallad has had very little opportunity to showcase his talent on the world’s biggest stage and he’ll be hoping to sign off at Russia 2018 with a goal. The 23-year-old winger has the potential to cause the Egyptian defence plenty of problems with his pace if given the right service.
So much was expected of Mohamed Salah in the World Cup after his outstanding season at Liverpool. However, the 26-year-old winger dislocated his shoulder in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid last month, which disrupted his and Egypt’s preparations for the tournament. Salah opened his account with a penalty in the 3-1 defeat to Russia and will fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet against the Saudis.
Team form and manager quotes:
The Green Falcons have been particularly poor in Russia, after being thumped 5-0 by the host nation on the opening day before going down 1-0 to Uruguay last time out.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side put up more of a fight against La Celeste, but they are yet to hit the back of the net at the tournament and haven’t won any of their last 11 games in the group stages.
They have only beaten the Egyptians once in six previous meetings, which came in the 1999 Confederations Cup as the Saudis ran out 5-1 victors.
Pizzi insists he has no regrets about their failed campaign and says the players will learn from the experience going forward.
“It’s very easy with hindsight, after the results that we have had, to come up with situations that you’d like to change,” the 50-year-old said.
“But unfortunately we coaches have to take most of our decisions before things pan out.
“We’ve seen that certain concepts work, we’ve seen alternatives, we’ve tried to bring in new players as well, and this experience that we have had specifically in the run-up to this World Cup has been very important.”
The Pharaohs will also be going home early after losing their opening two games in the group, although they were unlucky to fall to the Uruguayans, who scored a last-minute winner.
Hector Cuper’s men were disappointing against the Russians, however, as even the return of star man Salah couldn’t prevent a 3-1 defeat.
Cuper is determined to give the Egyptian fans something to cheer about after admitting their exit at the group stages is a shock to the system.
“This is an important match because we want to win and finish with a good result. We have prepared for it well and we want to represent the Egyptian people and make them happy with a victory,” the Argentine said.
“We will play against Saudi Arabia to regain wellness and achieve our new ambitions after the early exit at this World Cup, which was a big shock and blow. The team will be at its best.”
Saudi Arabia will have to make changes again with Taiseer Al Jassam, Omar Hawsawi and Mansour Al-Harbi all unavailable through injury.
Salah is expected to start in Volgograd, but it remains to be seen if veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary will feature against the Saudis.
Mohamed El Shenawy got the nod in the first two group encounters, although El-Hadary could be given the chance on Monday, which would see the 45-year-old become the oldest player to appear at the World Cup.