Egypt’s principal players have apologised for the team’s early exit from the World Cup, with Mohamed Salah vowing to take his side back to the global finals in four years’ time.
The North Africans, contesting the tournament for the first time since 1990, concluded their campaign in Russia with three defeats from three Group A matches.
Monday’s frustrating 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in Volgograd – they conceded the winner deep into injury time – extended Egypt’s winless run at the World Cup. In three appearances, they have yet to register a victory.
Salah scored the opener against the Saudis, but missed a golden opportunity soon after to make it 2-0, before Salman Al Faraj equalised from the spot and Salem Al Dawsari struck in the 94th minute.
“We want to apologise to all the Egyptian fans who came to support us here in the three matches, I know it is difficult for them, like us,” Salah said in a post-match interview. “I just want to say that Egypt reached the World Cup after 28 years, some players here do not have the required experience. Thanks to all of them and we will be back again in 2022.”
Captain Essam El Hadary echoed his teammate’s sentiments. At 45 and 161 days, the goalkeeper became the oldest player to compete in a World Cup and capped his record-breaking day by saving a first-half penalty from Fahad Al Muwallad.
“Thank God for everything,” El Hadary said. “This is football. I apologise to the Egyptian people for our results in the World Cup as well as my teammates.
“This [record] is for the entire Egypt and not El Hadary solely. I hope I maintain it for ever.”
Egypt manager Hector Cuper paid tribute to El Hadary, who for the first two group matches lost his place in the starting line-up to Mohamed El Shenawy. Yet he repaid Cuper’s faith with a fine individual display.
Asked post-match about his veteran goalkeeper, the Argentine said: “It’s true it was a special record today and many, many people in Egypt love him and support him. And he played a great game.
"Maybe you wonder why he wasn’t playing from the beginning? Because at the beginning you need to consider training and preparation as well. We didn’t have the result we wanted today, but he played well and I guess everyone in Egypt is very happy about it.”
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Again, Cuper defended his tactical approach, which has been criticised for being too defensive. He denied there have been any problems within the squad during their stay in Russia and said he would not walk away from the job following the disappointing early exit. Negotiations to renew his deal did take place before the World Cup, but an extension now seems unlikely.
“No, I’m not going to go away because my contract came to an end,” Cuper said. “My contract came to an end because we agreed it would after the World Cup. So we will see what will happen now. We have two meetings and we’ll see what happens when we get to Cairo.”