After starting their FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 campaign with a win over Cuba, Egypt would have all but guaranteed themselves a place in the last 16 had they beaten Russia in their second outing in Medellin on Tuesday. This was an objective their keeper, Gamal Abdelnaser, believed was firmly in their reach when they took to the court.
Full of hope, the 23-year-old custodian formed a heart shape with his hands before his country’s national anthem played, though it was not long before his dreams of victory began to vanish. Within 12 short seconds he was picking the ball out of the net, and was doing so again with just 62 seconds on the clock. “We were unlucky,” the visibly downcast Abdelnaser told FIFA.com afterwards. “Nothing came off for us today. Our ball control wasn’t good enough and we gave the ball away too. And there’s no getting away from the fact either that Russia played a great game.”
The only positive thing about Russia’s opening two strikes was that they came early in the game. Yet even though Abdelnaser felt there was no way back into the game for Egypt after such a slow start, there was no question of the Pharaohs throwing the towel in, as he explained: “At half-time the coach told us to forget the first 20 minutes and start from scratch again.” Unfortunately for the Egyptians, who were four down by that stage, their opponents took a similar approach, and stretched their lead with their first shot on goal after the restart.
Adding to Abdelnaser’s sense of disappointment was the fact that he had wanted nothing more than to dedicate a win to his brother, three sisters, parents and fiancée, all of whom are following the tournament closely back home.
The youngest member of the family, Abdelnaser will no doubt need some words of consolation from them following his side's 6-1 defeat. Asked what he plans to say to his girlfriend the next time they speak, he said, not without a quiver of emotion in his voice: “I love you.”
Having seen six goals go past him in all, Abdelnaser had good reason to feel dejected, though he played a big hand in keeping the score down, pulling off some fine saves to prevent the Russians from recording an even more handsome win. “I tried to talk to my team-mates the whole time and tell them what to do, but absolutely nothing worked out for us,” he said with an air of resignation.
It was little wonder, then, that the player’s only desire after the game was to go back to the hotel and pick up the phone. Already seated on the bus, his team-mates were no less eager to exit the Coliseo Ivan de Bedout and put the defeat behind them. On the journey back, Abdelnaser would perhaps have a moment to reflect on his coach’s half-time pep talk and to take those words with him into Egypt’s final group match, against Thailand.
Though it is back to square one for the Pharaohs, victory over the Asian side will soon see them smiling again.