Cuper uncertain over his Egypt future after World Cup loss
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Hector Cuper doesn't know what his future holds now that Egypt is on the brink of World Cup elimination.
Egypt lost Tuesday for the second time of the tournament when it fell 3-1 to host Russia.
Asked after the game if he thinks he will retain his job as coach, Cuper was unsure.
"Whether I should stay or not does not only depend on me," Cuper said through a translator. "If those responsible are not happy with what I've done, I'll be the first to leave, there's no doubt about that."
The 62-year-old Argentine has been in charge since 2015 and built a team around solid and reliable defense. But that defensive strength wasn't evident against Russia, which got three second-half goals.
The first was an own-goal by Egypt captain Ahmed Fathi — a veteran with 129 international appearances — after the ball came back in following a botched clearance. It flew off his leg as he slid to intercept it.
"The team has always defended well. Today we had 10 or 15 very bad minutes, that's why we lost," Cuper said. "I don't think it was lack of concentration. You can't be distracted when you're playing at the World Cup. But sometimes a mistake can be made, a miscalculation, a bad step."
Egypt made plenty of missteps in the second half, a surprise because its defense shut down Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani — two of the world's best strikers — in its 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The defensive breakdowns came after a strong first half in which Egypt won most of the aerial battles against a predictable Russian team. But after the break, it was almost all Russia at the St. Petersburg Stadium.
"Perhaps we made some mistakes we didn't make against Uruguay," Cuper acknowledged. "But that's how matches work."
He wasn't pleased with Egypt's inability to finish plays, even with striker Mohamed Salah back from injury. Salah scored once, but wasn't able to take over the game against Russia. The shoulder injury that kept him out of Egypt's loss to Uruguay may not have been fully healed.
"We had some good chances, but we were lacking that extra something," Cuper said. "We weren't decisive enough."
Egypt's final Group A game is against Saudi Arabia on Monday, which could also prove to be Cuper's last match as coach.
"The national squad is above any individual, including myself," Cuper said. "Whether I will continue or not, we will have to see. We will try to finish in the best possible manner."
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire