Cuper's future under scrutiny as Egypt wave goodbye to World Cup

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 20 Jun 2018

Hector Cuper
Egypt coach Hector Cuper (Photo: REUTERS)

Egypt coach Hector Cuper is facing an uphill climb to retain his position after a disappointing World Cup campaign saw the team exit the tournament following two defeats in Group A.

The Argentinean has been widely credited for tightening what used to be a porous defence since his arrival more than three years ago, with his pragmatic approach lifting Egypt to their first World Cup finals since 1990.

However, those who decried his strategies as anti-football were quick on the trigger after Egypt were outclassed in a disappointing 3-1 loss to hosts Russia on Tuesday which ended their brief World Cup campaign.

The Pharaohs, who were lauded for a solid and brave display in a last-gasp 1-0 defeat by Uruguay in their Group A opener last Friday, collapsed in a 15-minute spell early in the second half, committing a series of costly errors.

Ahmed Fathi put the ball into his own net before Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba scored two quick-fire goals to end the match as a contest, leaving Egypt to rue what could have been had they adopted bolder schemes against Uruguay and Russia.

"We have a coward manager who plays very boring football. We could have shown the world that we can play good football even if we suffer a first-round exit," said Sherif Mostafa, a 29-year-old football fan.

The debate over Cuper's defensive-minded approach intensified following the reverse in Saint Petersburg.

Some said Egypt had not done enough to get anything out of the two games against Uruguay and Russia due to their overly-cautious tactics but others believe the team had actually punched above their weight by qualifying for the World Cup, given the scarcity of natural talent.

Mohamed Salah, the standout member of Egypt's squad, missed the opening game against Uruguay because of a shoulder injury and looked not fully fit when he played against Russia, although he scored the team's solitary goal with a second-half penalty.

Some of the other attack-minded players who should have filled the gap have been lackluster in the build-up to the World Cup.

Playmaker Abdallah El-Said, the man who usually feeds Salah with astute through balls, appeared sluggish after a transfer dispute with his club Ahly took its toll on him, with a short loan spell in Finland towards the end of the season doing him no favours.

Winger Ramadan Sobhi was also affected with lack of action at Stoke City, who were relegated from the English Premier League, while Saudi-based forward Mahmoud Kahraba had a disappointing season with Jeddah club Ittihad.

Egypt's hopeful long balls upfield were also no use, mainly because the team do not boast a single reliable striker. Cuper opted to only include one out-and-out frontman in Egypt's roster - Ahly's Marwan Mohsen, who made little impact in the two games and barely troubled his markers.

Whether Cuper would keep his job remains to be seen but the Egyptian FA is under pressure to dismiss him and bring in an adventurous boss.

In 37 games under the guidance of the former Inter Milan and Valencia boss, Egypt won 19, drew 7 and lost 11. They reached the 2017 African Nations Cup final in Gabon, where they lost 2-1 to Cameroon.

"If the EFA is not satisfied with my work they have all the right to sack me," Cuper told a news conference following the loss against Russia.

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