LOS ANGELES—Along with other football loving Angelenos across the Southland, LAFC head coach Bob Bradley woke up just before 5 a.m. PT on Friday to watch Egypt face Uruguay in both teams' opening 2018 FIFA World Cup match.
“In a tight first game, you hope that they can still come away with a point,” Bradley told MLSsoccer.com. “In that regard, the late goal is a tough blow."
Uruguayan center back José Giménez rose above Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny in the 89th minute to put La Celeste ahead late in the competition’s second match.
“Uruguay is a team that’s always a threat on set pieces,” he added. “When you take [Mohamed] Salah out of the team, the attack loses its focus, its danger man.”
Without Salah — who broke the Premier League record for goals shortly before exiting the UEFA Champions League final with a shoulder injury last month — Egypt was unable to equalize before time expired.
The 1-0 defeat in Ekaterinburg was the first World Cup match for The Pharaohs since they fell to England by the same scoreline during the Italy-hosted 1990 tournament. Bradley, who led the US national team during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, narrowly missed out on guiding Egypt to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after winning 7-of-8 matches in the unforgiving CAF qualifying format.
Many players in the 2018 squad — including Premier League Player of the Year Salah, Elneny (who currently plays for Arsenal) and LAFC’s Omar Gaber — saw their first regular action for the Egyptian national team under Bradley’s reign from 2011-13, and the players have spoken about their respect for his management, keeping the lines of communication open.
“I hear from different guys,” says Bradley. “When Omar goes there, he will mention that a number of guys send their best."
Following LAFC training Friday, the coach spoke about how much experience the current crop of Egyptian players has gained and their maturation as professionals from the time he first took over.
Bradley also knows, drawing from his 2010 experience, that the first game is a more of a “chess match." He put the decision made by current Egyptian manager Héctor Cúper, in which chose not to risk Salah any earlier than necessary, in context.
“It would be a much different discussion if they take a point and it’s a 0-0 game, but when you give that late goal and you’re still looking at Russia’s 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia, that means Egypt goes into the next game knowing their chance to move out of the group is on the line.”
Despite the task ahead, their former manager is hopeful The Pharaohs will still advance.
“They all know that I loved my time in Egypt and I loved working with them,” he says of the players on the squad. “I’m supporting every one of them in the World Cup.”