Who? Russia - Egypt
Where? Krestovski Stadium, St. Petersburg
When? June 19, 20:00 (CET local time)
Russia (Eden Roitfarb)
They say that time flies by when you enjoy! The first round of group games is behind us, and here we are again with hosts Russia who face Egypt. And what a difference a few days can make: The Russians came into the opening game with clear pessimism and doubt of their team, who eventually smashed Saudi Arabia 5-0. Now, it feels closer to euphoria in the Russian camp, who know that a victory over the Pharohs would clinch a qualification through to the next round – for the first time since the Soviet Union collapse.
Another reason for the Russian optimism is due to the questionable fitness of opponent superstar Mohammed Salah. It is clear that without him running down the wing at full forces, Egypt are dramatically weaker, and that can tilt the odds towards the hosts. On the other side, the unlucky Alan Dzagoev has been ruled out for at least the rest of the group stage after injuring his hamstring vs Saudi Arabia. His replacement would be Denis Cheryshev, who produced a brilliant display on Thursday. His 2 goals were his firsts for the national team, and along with Yury Gazinsky’s goal, that marked the first time two players have scored their first goals for a national team in an opening World Cup match.
After pleasing the Moscow crowd, Russia move on to host in St Petersburg, the former capital of the Russian empire and Vladimir Putin’s hometown. These two facts alone should fire up Stanislav Cherchesov’s men to perform well and continue the momentum.
Egypt (Uri Levy)
After stretching Uruguay to the very last minute in Ekaterinburg, Egypt is now facing their most important in this World Cup. Some would say in their history. It won’t be easy. Russia, as seen in the tournament’s opening match, is very strong in front the home crowd, and in the city of St. Petersburg, the local fans are already preparing a hostile welcome to the Pharaohs.
The biggest question of course is whether Mohamed Salah will take part in the game or not, but one must acknowledge the fact that Egypt produced a great tactical performance against Uruguay. They hanged on to the match and almost scored versus a much better side. Abdalla Said, Ahmed Hegazy and even Amr Warda has done their job perfectly. The one who will now need to deliver is Hector Cúper, who made a huge mistake by making the last substitute in the last game.
Without Salah, Egypt actually has a psychological advantage over the rival - while the other team is worried from the moment Salah will join from the bench. If Cúper wouldn’t made the final change that convinced the Uruguayans that Salah won’t play, the result could have been different.
But it’s all over now. Egypt must win in order to progress from Group A, and nothing but a victory over the host in one of the best stadiums in the tournament will be counted as a success.