The World Cup host Russia continued its blistering form, defeating Egypt, 3-1, in Saint Petersburg Tuesday night and all but qualifying for the knockout rounds for the first time since 1986, when it competed as the Soviet Union. In a largely even and back-and-forth match, Russia’s three second half goals in 16 minutes stunned the Egyptians.
Mohamed Salah, who made his World Cup debut after missing Egypt’s opening match against Uruguay with a shoulder injury, scored a consolation penalty, but the Egyptian attack was never able to get in gear. Barring an improbable sequence of events, Egypt’s World Cup will be over after its match against Saudi Arabia on Monday.
The opening 45 minutes were lively, with both teams eager to get forward and attack, but there were few clear shots on goal. Russia tried to feed crosses into the 6-foot-5-inch striker Artem Dzyuba, while Egypt alternated between playing through Salah on the wing or putting in their own crosses for Marwan Mohsen.
The second half, however, began disastrously for Egypt. Just after the half began, Roman Zobnin sent a bouncing ball towards the back post, where the Egyptian defender Ahmed Fathi was wrestling with Dzyuba. Fathi attempted to clear the ball as he fell over, but it bounced off his leg and past Mohamed El-Shenawy into the net for a 47th-minute goal.
Russia’s second came just 10 minutes later. Right back Mário Fernandes drove to the end line before cutting the ball back near the penalty spot, where an open Denis Cheryshev slotted the ball home for his third goal of the tournament.
Things would get worse before they got better for Egypt, as Dzyuba finally got his deserved goal minutes later. Russia lobbed a hopeful free kick from the halfway line toward goal. The agile big man controlled the ball with his chest, slipped past an Egyptian defender, and fired home to put Russia ahead by 3-0.
Egypt poured numbers forward for the final thirty minutes of the game, knowing they needed at least three, and probably four, goals to keep their World Cup hopes alive. It was not to be.
Salah did pull one back after he was brought down in the box and awarded a penalty kick, which he thumped past Igor Akinfeev in the 73rd minute for Egypt’s first goal of the tournament. But Salah looked rusty, and struggled with his first touch all night. Unable to drag Egypt to victory, as he did with Liverpool so many times last season, and without any other attackers capable of doing so, Salah was helpless as Russia saw out the game easily.
To miss the knockout round now, Russia would have to lose to Uruguay, see Saudi Arabia defeat both Uruguay and Egypt, and surrender its enormous goal differential. Similarly, to qualify for the next round Egypt would have to beat Saudi Arabia, see Saudi Arabia and Russia defeat Uruguay, and win out on goal differential.
Neither is likely to happen.
Here’s how the game unfolded:
95’: It’s All Over!
Russia’s defense stands firm, and they hold on for a 3-1 victory.
90’: Time Running Out
The referee indicates four minutes of stoppage time.
86’: Late Changes for Both Sides
Egypt brought Ramadan Sobhi on for Trezeguet a few minutes ago, and now Russia swaps Fedor Kudryashov for Yury Zhirkov.
84’: Careful Counters
With Egypt throwing everybody forward, Russia has had a couple of counter attack opportunities. But they’re cautiously only sending one or two players, and the attacks mostly fizzle out.
83’: Desperation for Egypt
About 10 minutes left for Egypt, who need to score at least two, and probably three, goals to keep its hopes of advancing alive.
79’: Both Scorers off for Russia
The other Russian goalscorer, Artem Dzyuba, comes off for Fedor Smolov.
74’: Defensive Move for Russia
One of the Russian goal scorers, Denis Cheryshev, comes off for Daler Kuzyayev, a more defensive midfielder.
72’: GOAL EGYPT!
Mohamed Salah is dragged down in the box by Roman Zobnin while going for the ball. He might’ve been outside the box when first tugged, however. But after a video review, the referee awards a penalty kick.
Salah takes it, dancing towards the ball before emphatically thumping it into the top right corner.
67’: Wasted Chance
Egypt’s best chance of the match, as Trezeguet receives a square pass and is open at the top of the box. He tries passing the ball into the bottom of the net, but his shot goes just wide. As if punishment for his shot, Trezeguet makes way for Ramadan Sobhi a minute later.
64’: Change for Egypt
Amr Warda comes on for Mohamed Elneny, but it’s probably too little too late for the Pharoahs, after a brutal 16 minutes saw Russia score three goals.
62’: RUSSIA AGAIN!
Big Artem Dzyuba (he’s 6’5”) takes down a lob from half field, dribbles past an Egyptian defender and slots the ball past Mohamed El-Shenawy to give Russia a 3-0 lead.
It was really a goal that came out of nowhere. But when you send the ball into the mixer and have the tallest player on the field, sometimes good things happen.
Matthew Futterman: Russia is on its way to the round of 16, where Portugal or Spain will likely await. That will be one whale of a match, especially if Cristiano Ronaldo gets to take on the home team.
59’: A SECOND FOR RUSSIA!
Denis Cheryshev gets his third goal of the tournament. Mário Fernandes took a pass on the corner of the six-yard box and drove to the end line, before cutting the ball back to an open Cheryshev, who wasn’t going to miss from that close. Cheryshev’s third goal draws him even with Cristiano Ronaldo for the tournament lead.
57’: Egyptian Chances, Finally
Better from Egypt, who get several dangerous crosses into the box. Mo Salah’s shot from close is blocked out, and Russia is able to pounce first and clear a loose ball on the subsequent corner.
52’: Not So Dangerous
Egypt’s response to going down a goal has been to surge forward, but the quality of their passing is lacking.
48’: Own Goal’s Stock Rising
So far, Own Goal is the striker of the tournament.
47’: GOAL Russia!
It’s an own goal in Russia’s favor! Battling with big Russian forward Artem Dzyuba in the box, Egyptian right back Ahmed Fathi half swings at the ball, and it bounces off his leg and past his own keeper.
Halftime: Good Bit of Action, No Goals
The two sides go into halftime goalless, though not for a lack of trying. Russia might be content with a draw and a point, but Egypt will most likely push for a goal and the victory in the second half.
42’: Salah Gets a Look
Marwan Mohsen dummies a pass that finds Mo Salah at the top of the box. He mis-controls the ball but is still able to take a shot mostly facing away from the goal. It goes wide.
Matthew Futterman: There is nothing like the moment when the star gets the ball in a dangerous spot with a single defender to beat. You could feel 65,000 people holding their breath on that Salah chance at the 18. His shot wasn’t all that close, but it was a moment.
40’: Just Pump in the Crosses
Both teams are looking to find their big strikers in the box with crosses. Marwan Mohsen of Egypt and Artem Dzyuba of Russia have each gotten their heads on a couple of balls, but haven’t had a clean look at a header.
Matthew Futterman: It’s deafening in here. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the referee, Enrique Caceres of Paraguay, to officiate a Russia game in Putin’s Russia. Russia has gotten a few non-calls so far. It’s something to keep an eye on. Referees are all too human.
34’: Salah Threatens
A flick-on header almost finds Mo Salah at the back post, but Russia is able to clear before he gets a foot on the ball. The subsequent corner is wasted.
33’: Calm Before the Storm?
Things have calmed a bit, with the teams trading possession in midfield. Let’s hope it presages a storm of goals.
25’: Salah Quiet So Far
Not too much involvement from Mo Salah yet, though Egyptian players have ballooned a number of speculative balls to his side of the field. For Liverpool, Salah tracks back and is a tenacious defender, but for the Pharaohs he seems to be saving his energy to attack.
22’: High-Quality Start
This has been a pretty fun game so far. The teams are evenly matched, possession is split, and neither are afraid to commit numbers forward in the attack.
Matthew Futterman: For all of the attention that Mo Salah gets, Egypt is here because they stopped giving up goals by the bundle. They are a pretty defensive team that needs that back line to stay organized. So far so good. After Russia’s early flourish, most of the chances have been from long range.
19’: Russia Fires Back
Denis Cheryshev, who scored two goals against Saudi Arabia, claims a loose ball at the top of the box and fires a shot at Egypt’s goal, but it goes over.
16’: Egypt Has a Go
Egypt’s Trezeguet pops free at the edge of the Russian box and curls a shot toward goal. It looked to beat Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev but was just wide of the post.
11’: One-Way Traffic
Russia is piling the pressure on the Egyptian goal, but haven’t yet had better than a half-chance.
06’: Two More for Russia
Sergey Ignashevich gets a header on goal, but he’s traveling backward and it has no power. Egypt subsequently gave the ball away in the middle of the field, but Aleksandr Golovin’s shot from the top of the area goes wide.
04’: Early Chance for Russia
Egypt controlling more of the ball early, but the best chance went to Russia, who intercepted a wayward crossfield pass and almost slipped Dzyuba in on goal.
01’: And We’re Off!
Russia is in red, Egypt in white.
All Eyes on El-Shenawy
To hold the Russians to fewer than the five goals they scored against Saudi Arabia, Egypt will be relying on goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, who plays for Al Ahly, Egypt’s best domestic club. El-Shenawy was named man of the match against Uruguay, as he coped well with constant pressure and parried away three shots.
Russia’s Starting Lineup
1. Igor Akinfeev
4. Sergey Ignashevich
3. Ilya Kutepov
18. Yury Zhirkov
2. Mario Fernandes
17. Aleksandr Golovin
11. Roman Zobnin
8. Iury Gazinsky
22. Artem Dzyuba
6. Denis Cheryshev
19. Aleksandr Samedov
Egypt’s Starting Lineup
23. Mohamed El-Shenawy
6. Ahmed Hegazi
2. Ali Gabr
13. Mohamed Abdel-Shafy
7. Ahmed Fathi
19. Abdalla Said
8. Tarek Hamed
17. Mohamed Elneny
9. Marwan Mohsen
10. Mohamed Salah