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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Hector Cuper pleased to see how Egypt measured up against the 'power of Portugal'

Salah's opening goal was overshadowed by a late double from Ronaldo in Zurich on Friday

Mohamed Salah, left, scored the opening goal for Egypt before Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to give Portugal a late victory in Zurich. Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters
Mohamed Salah, left, scored the opening goal for Egypt before Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to give Portugal a late victory in Zurich. Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

Hector Cuper said he was proud of his Egypt players despite their last-gasp 2-1 loss to Portugal in a friendly in Zurich on Friday night.

Preparing for their first World Cup in 28 years, the North Africans performed well against the European champions and seemed set for an upset when Mohamed Salah put them 1-0 up just before the hour at the Stadion Letzigrund.

Egypt kept Portugal at bay until second-half stoppage time, but Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a matter of minutes to deny them a famous victory. Ranked third in the world, Portugal sit 41 places above their rivals.

Cuper was understandably still pleased with his side’s display, though, as Egypt ramp up preparations for this summer’s finals in Russia. They next play Greece on Tuesday, in another friendly in Zurich.

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Read more:

John McAuley in Zurich: Ronaldo loves lording it over a rival - like he did over Salah

Richard Jolly: Italy take first steps post-World Cup failure but a 'new era' is yet to begin

Andy Mitten: Spain face Germany and Italy in litmus test of World Cup credentials

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“We showed something different, considering the calibre of opponent we had in front of us,” Cuper said. “We wanted to measure ourselves against the power of Portugal, to see where we are at the beginning of our preparations.

“Personally, I'm happy with what we did on the pitch, not with the result. Overall, we played a good game. It was an important challenge to know where we are, what is our level, to compete with a rival like Portugal, with players with great quality. It was a shame that they scored in the 92nd and 94th minute.

“Especially considering the opponent, we were pretty good. I would like another result, but football is like that.”

The match was billed by many as a direct shootout between Salah and Ronaldo. The two had arrived at the encounter in fine form, with Salah the top scorer in England’s Premier League and Ronaldo second in the race for the Pichichi in Spain. In his previous 11 matches spanning all competitions, the Real Madrid forward had scored 21 goals.

Ronaldo’s double lifted him to 81 international goals, only three behind second-placed Ferenc Puskas in the all-time list. Salah, meanwhile, has an impressive 33 goals in 57 appearances for Egypt, moving him joint-fourth in his country’s record books.

The Liverpool forward, 25, has been tipped by some to this season break the stranglehold on the Ballon d’Or currently enjoyed by Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The duo have been awarded the trophy the past 10 years, with Ronaldo its current incumbent.

When asked after the Portugal defeat if Salah ranks alongside the game's current greats, Cuper said: "Salah is one of the best players we have, but behind a great player there has to be a great team. I do not know if we have the great team, but we give him greater security.

“Nowadays Salah is one of the best players in the world. If he can be the best? What he is doing now is already very commendable."