Egypt holds its breath over injured Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah took part in training at the Akhmat Arena stadium in Grozny on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Egypt holds its breath over injured Mohamed Salah

  • Egyptian superstar is nursing an injured shoulder
  • 'There’s a good degree of progress,' said team director

Yekaterinburg, RUSSIA: Mohamed Salah is in a high-profile race to be fit for Egypt’s World Cup opener against Uruguay on Friday and even opponents are hoping the Liverpool ace could yet play a role in Russia.
The striker and Egyptian superstar, who is nursing an injured shoulder, is crucial to the north African side’s hopes of making it out of a weak-looking Group A also featuring the hosts and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt play Uruguay — tipped by some to be dark horses — in Yekaterinburg in just the second game of the tournament, following Russia against Saudi Arabia in the opening match.
Salah, who turns 26 on the day of the game, gave 100 million frantic Egyptians a massive boost on Wednesday when he joined a squad training session at their Grozny base.
He had been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid on May 26, casting severe doubt on his World Cup participation.
He went through a range of warm-up exercises with his team-mates, but Egyptian team officials are giving little away.
“There’s a good degree of progress but no definitive decision on whether he takes part, as we are following his case day by day,” team director Ihab Lahita told reporters.
Egypt’s 62-year-old Argentine coach Hector Cuper will conduct a pre-match press conference on Thursday, but there are suggestions that he wants to see Salah train again before making any decision on whether the player is fit to face a Uruguay side boasting the twin attacking threat of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
The most likely outcome is that Salah, one of the outstanding players in the world this season as he helped propel Liverpool to the Champions League final, will be on the bench on Friday.
Salah’s World Cup dream was left on the brink when he exited the final in tears after Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground.
Cuper has attempted to dismiss the notion that Egypt are a one-man side, but with 44 goals in all competitions this season for Liverpool, Salah’s badly timed injury has become a national obsession back home.
Salah is regarded as a contender for the Ballon d’Or for his spectacular debut season at Anfield, alongside Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar of Brazil.
The tournament in Russia will be the poorer for Salah missing out and Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera has expressed hope that Salah will play against the South Americans.
“I like the best players to play, I train with the best and I want the best players to play,” said Muslera.
Egypt, a no-frills side who play on the counterattack under the wily Cuper, face hosts Russia on Tuesday and the Saudi Arabia on June 25 in their last group game.


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

Updated 14 min 45 sec ago
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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.