MOSCOW. — Veteran coach Oscar Tabarez said Uruguay “broke the spell” after they left it late to defeat an Egypt side shorn of Mohamed Salah 1-0 in their World Cup opener yesterday.
Defender Jose Gimenez was the unlikely 89th-minute match winner for Tabarez’s men, who also struck a post late on through Edinson Cavani.
A heartbreaking stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener yesterday
Uruguay’s deserved last-gasp victory leaves them and Russia in early control in Group A after the hosts’ 5-0 mauling of Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener on Thursday.
But it also stops the rot for Uruguay in World Cup opening games — the South Americans had not won their first match in the tournament since 1970.
A poor contest looked likely to end in stalemate but with Uruguay cranking up the pressure late on, Atletico Madrid’s Gimenez rose to power a header into the top corner and break Egypt hearts.
Aside from Liverpool ace Salah failing to get off the bench with his shoulder injury, another major talking point was also off the pitch — large portions of empty seats in one main stand at the Yekaterinburg Arena were an embarrassing sight for FIFA and local organisers.
In a group where Spain and Portugal are strong favourites to qualify for the knockout stage, the result gives Iran an outside chance of an upset but was a bitter blow for an enterprising Moroccan side.
Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.
The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.
Morocco and the unfortunate Bouhaddouz were devastated as the country were forced to reflect on a second major footballing blow of the week after their bid to host the 2026 World Cup failed on Wednesday.