Moments of Mohamed Salah excellence cannot save Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt's disastrous World Cup campaign ended on a flat note as they were beaten 2-1 after a stoppage-time winner from Saudi Arabia.
Both sides were already eliminated heading into the contest, but despite occasional moments of excellence from Mohamed Salah, this was a limp and underwhelming display from the Pharaohs.
They struggled for offensive cohesion, and any defensive resiliency deserted them with a sloppy display at the back.
They return to Cairo with zero wins and zero points, despite being drawn into a favourable Group A, and they may never have a better chance to end their wait for a World Cup win.
Egypt were much brighter in attack than they had been in their opening two fixtures, with Salah showing snatches of his quality with some searing pace and a fine finish to open the scoring.
This contest served, at times, as a painful glimpse of what might have been for the Pharaohs had Salah been in better shape from the start of the competition.
Egypt conceded possession and the initiative to Saudi Arabia, who enjoyed over 63 percent of the ball during the first half.
The link between the midfield and the attack was missing, and despite a plethora of offensive options, they were unable to exert more pressure on their opponents after the break.
Even their defensive approach let them down at the death, as sloppy play among the defenders allowed Saudi Arabia to nab a late winner.
Manager rating (out of 10):
5 - Hector Cuper: The limitations of Cuper's conservative approach have been exposed here in Russia, as many Egyptians feared it would before the tournament began.
He didn't truly allow Egypt to express themselves, and even here, when up against a supposedly inferior opponent, they were unable to assert themselves and take control of the contest.
The future looks uncertain for the Argentinian coach following another underwhelming display. The football isn't good to watch, and nor has it proved effective.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Essam El Hadary, 7 -- History was made on Monday as 45-year-old El Hadary took over from Mohamed El Shenawy in the starting lineup to replace Colombia's Faryd Mondragon as the World Cup's oldest player.
It was a worthy career swansong for the legendary stopper, a veteran of four African Cup of Nations successes, and marked the occasion by saving Fahad Al Muwallad's penalty
DF Ahmed Fathi, 5 -- The ageing right-back hasn't done himself justice at this tournament, and after scoring the own goal against Russia, he gave away Saudi Arabia's first penalty here after handballing in the box.
It was a battling display, but the legs are creaking.
DF Ahmed Hegazy, 6 -- Yet again, he was a big presence for the Pharaohs, and also made a series of fine blocks and clearances as Saudi Arabia put the pressure on before their opener.
DF Ali Gabr, 4 -- Was guilty of holding onto Al Muwallad to concede a penalty at the end of the first half, and was caught out for Saudi Arabia's winner.
DF Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, 5 -- Another who's done himself few favours this tournament. Too much came down his side and his crossing was inaccurate.
MF Mohamed Elneny, 5 -- Saudi Arabia were allowed to dominate the possession for too long during the first half, and Elneny and Hamed must take some of the blame, even if the Asians' final ball was lacking.
His shooting from range was wild, although he did make several key interceptions.
MF Tarek Hamed, 5 -- Struggled with the movement of Salem El Dawsari, who was a threat throughout for the Asian side.
MF Abdallah El-Said, 6 -- Played in Salah with a delicious pass moments before repeating the trick with a fine assist in the 22nd minute. He was replaced before the break with an injury.
FW Mohamed Salah, 6 -- A frustrating encounter, despite his goal, as the forward played despite the political unrest enveloping him this week and the fact that he wasn't on the first teamsheet released by Egypt.
Despite causing trouble with his pace and endeavour, he was muscled off the ball too often, and his passing wasn't as accurate as it could have been.
It was surprising how many moves broke down at his feet and he was guilty of missing a first-half sitter.
FW Marwan Mohsen, 6 -- There were some moments of solid hold-up play, and he did bring others into the action. However, he remained clumsy and didn't carry a goalscoring threat, despite being effective in the air.
His tournament ends with zero shots on target, and it remains to be seen whether axed Kouka would have been a better bet.
FW Trezeguet, 6 -- Another lively display. His interplay with Salah was encouraging at times, and he showcased his ability to cause problems either wide or when drifting inside.
He sent one curling first-half effort wide, and didn't hit the target with any of his three efforts.
FW Amr Warda, 5 -- Energetic after coming on, but lacking technical quality and his delivery let him down.
MF Ramadan Sobhi, 5 -- Biggest contribution after coming on was blocking a pass from Elneny.
FW Kahraba, 5 -- Finished straight at the goalkeeper after being played through, but his blushes were spared - somewhat - by the offside flag.
Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.