The third and final friendly game for Egypt before the start of the World Cup ended in a 0-3 loss against a star-studded Belgium squad, with Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Marouane Fellaini on the scoresheet on Wednesday.
Hector Cuper’s tactics were heavily criticized during the past two games for being excessively defensive, and the team’s failure to create in the attacking third without Mohamed Salah further highlighted Egypt’s limitations. Yet, despite the defeat, Egypt’s display was far more encouraging than that against Kuwait and Colombia with the team showing a strong attacking intent that made Belgium’s night a lot more difficult than they expected it to be.
Egypt XI (Subbed on): Essam El Hadary (Mohamed El Shenawy); Ahmed Fathy (Ahmed El Mohamady), Ahmed Hegazy, Ali Gabr, Mohamed Abdel Shafy; Mohamed Elneny, Tarek Hamed (Sam Morsy); Amr Warda (Omar Gaber), Abdallah El Said, Ramadan Sobhi (Mahmoud Kahraba); Marwan Mohsen (Mahmoud Trezeguet).
Belgium XI (Subbed on): Thibaut Courtois; Laurent Ciman, Jan Vertonghen (Dedryck Boyata), Toby Alderweireld; Thomas Meunier (Thorgan Hazard), Alex Witsel (Marouane Fellaini), Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco; Dries Mertens (Nacer Chadli), Eden Hazard (Adnan Januzaj), Romelu Lukaku (Michy Batshuayi).
The game started with a rough challenge from Tarek Hamed on Eden Hazard that sent the Belgian captain to the ground to kick off an action packed first half. The Belgians, as expected, quickly controlled the game’s tempo with De Bruyne and Hazard leading the attacks. Egypt, however, presented a constant threat from counter attacks during what was arguably Egypt’s best half in all three friendly games.
El Hadary was put to the test on multiple occasions with shots from Mertens and Hazard forcing saves from the soon-to-become oldest player to take part in a World Cup tournament. Then, on the 27th minute mark, a left-footed shot from Hazard was pushed away by El Hadary but Manchester United’s Lukaku beat Ali Gabr to the rebound to score the first goal of the game for Belgium.
Despite going behind, Egypt continued to go forward with Amr Warda particularly impressing. A cross from Warda put Abdallah El Said in a one-on-one situation with the defender as he cut inside on his right foot but his shot was blocked. Shortly after, another cross from Abdel Shafy fell to Marwan Mohsen whose header went just over the crossbar.
But, just before halftime, a mistake from Fathy sent Carrasco through on goal. His cross was met with a first-time shot from Hazard, with the ball going over El Hadary’s head and into the goal.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half witnessed Egypt having more possession of the ball than they did in the first half, with Elneny and Abdallah El Said able to slow down the tempo and start attacks from the middle of the pitch. The first real chance came when a one-two between El Said and Mahmoud Trezeguet, who came on for Marwan Mohsen, sent the latter through on goal with only Courtois to beat. His left-shooted shot, however, was easily saved by Chelsea’s number one goalkeeper.
Ramadan Sobhi wasted Egypt’s best opportunity to score the Pharaoh’s first goal when an incredible through ball from Trezeguet sent him on a clear path to goal. Sobhi, who had a largely disappointing game, took too long to shoot allowing the defender to close down on him and stop the attack. Shortly after, Sobhi came off for Mahmoud Kahraba.
Egypt continued to push for a goal in the final minutes of the game but were unable to trouble Belgium’s backline. Then, just before the final whistle, Batshuayi was able to dribble past Gabr on the right flank and cross to Fellaini for an easy tap in to score Belgium’s third and final goal.
Overall, it was a good performance from the Egyptians. Belgium are one of the favorites to win the tournament and still Egypt was able to test them without one of Europe’s biggest stars, Mohamed Salah. Now, the focus switches to the game against Uruguay where a good result is crucial if Egypt is to make it past the group stages for their first time in history.
Match top performers: Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed Abdel Shafy, Amr Warda, Abdallah El Said, and Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Match worst performers: Essam El Hadary, Ahmed Fathy, Ali Gabr, and Ramadan Sobhi.