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Uruguay v. Egypt Preview: Pick Your Scouser

Uruguay v. Egypt has so many angles, it's hard to know where to start, but let's note that it includes Liverpool's two greatest signings of the modern era. Both Suarez and Salah came aboard as Liverpool was looking to replace talismanic goal scorers (the Torrid Torres and Coutinho, respectively). Neither came with huge hype but in both cases we readily recognized prodigious attacking talent. Salah, for me, comes in a familiar mould, a next-tier down Messi. Both run at defenders at great speed, a low center of gravity that allows for abrupt directional change as well as great power in thwarting tackles, and the balance and steel nerves to cooly finish. Both are utterly left-footed, highly industrious defenders who can pick your pocket, and bring great humility relative to their outsized talent.

Suarez is--unlike Salah--past his prime, but has been torching the top defensives for the past 7 years. Suarez's best work comes off the ball or just at the end of a play, less a dribbler than a feverish cutter discovering unforeseen gaps, the guy who'd run over his grandmother for a toe poke. He's both a poacher who's scores in a baffling array of styles, and an unselfish creator, and while I don't have the stats, he seems to put his shots on target more than any striker in memory.

Were it simply a battle of Scousers, we'd bank on the Egyptian...if he were healthy. We shall see about that. But this is of course a team match. Egypt has offered stout organized defense, compact with with 2 holding mids, including Arsenal's Elneny, who's okay but not more than that in my book. They surround a 45-year old keeper. That's not a typo. Old men everywhere rejoice.

Uruguay has the more talented team, great tradition, and a 10-year reign of success from Oscar Tabarez. The game plan over that time has been simple: "DON'T LET ANYONE SCORE! We'll figure something out offensively." Capable goaltending, a highly seasoned matrimonial pairing of centerbacks in Godin and Gimenez at Atletico Madrid and Uruguay, and guys you do not want to meet in an alley in front of them, hard men who've cut through many an ankle. With Suarez, PSG's Cavani (a hard worker who can miss the easiest of sitters), and Diego Forlan in the attack, they didn't need much more.

Apparently, though, a new gen of midfielders have arrived and they like to attack, create, and hold the ball. They are all new to me and not jump out at first glance, but holding down time at Inter, Juve, and Boca Juniors is noteworthy.

Salah, alas, has the weight of a nation and Sergio Ramos on his shoulder(s). He is a Muhammad Ali-level famous guy across the Arab world, and the Pharoahs will, well, expect him to part the waters this Cup. He will have a rough ride, I think, getting through the Uruguayan defense, and staying in one piece, assuming he's fit enough to go. We wish him well.

In the end, I'll tip Uruguay, 1-0. They're built for exactly this kind of opponent, compact in shape, and rarely do they underperform. If Salah can break them down, they'll rename the Canal after him.

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