Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi welcomes participation of Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah is expected to play some part in Egypt's Group A campaign. (AFP)
Updated 08 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi welcomes participation of Mohamed Salah

  • Green Falcons set to meet Egypt on June 25
  • Salah is expected to recover from shoulder injury by then

Juan Antonio Pizzi is happy Mohamed Salah will be in Russia even though the Egyptian ace could dump Saudi Arabia out of the World Cup.
A lot of the pre-tournament focus has been on Salah’s shoulder — the hopes of a nation resting on the healing powers of the Liverpool star who injured it during his side’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
While it is still not known when he will be able to play, Salah did make the Egypt squad and all the noises coming out of the camp are that he will be able to get back on the pitch sooner rather than later. That means he is more than likely to line-up against Saudi Arabia in the last game in Group A, a match that could prove pivotal to both sides’ hopes of making the knockout stages.
“We are happy that Mohamed Salah is in the Egyptian squad of 23 and will be playing in the World Cup,” Green Falcons boss Pizzi said.
“We appreciate the efforts that Salah has done to be here. We know that (he) has played well for six months with Liverpool. He (has been) a great player with them and scored many beautiful goals.”
All the focus on Salah and his shoulder has removed attention away from the other 22 players, which, considering the side is without a win this year and lost 3-0 to Belgium on Wednesday, is no bad thing. But Pizzi is all too aware that a belief that Egypt without Salah, or with a misfiring Salah, are easy fodder would be wrong.
“We respect the all Egyptian National team and not just Mohamed Salah,” he said.
Before they face Egypt, however, Saudi Arabia come up against Russia on Thursday and Uruguay six days’ later — the outcomes of which will determine whether the Green Falcons go into the Egypt clash with everything still to play for.
The World Cup opener against the hosts will be Pizzi’s first competitive match as Saudi Arabia coach; the eyes of the globe will be watching but Pizzi is remaining calm.
“Sure, we have faith in our players and in the way they were prepared. It is my first World Cup opener as a coach for a national team. We have prepared the players in the best possible way and we gave them all they needed to be at the highest levels. We will wait and see how things will go in the first game.
“Of course we will play the first match and that is exceptional and everybody will be excited. We have high hopes regarding this game. All the media, people and fans are waiting for this game.”


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

Updated 18 June 2018
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.