Tentative Mohamed Salah almost 'certain' to play in Egypt opener against Uruguay

Hector Cuper said that star striker Mohamed Salah has recovered from his shoulder injury and will almost certainly play against Uruguay. (Reuters)
Updated 15 June 2018
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Tentative Mohamed Salah almost 'certain' to play in Egypt opener against Uruguay

  • Hector Cuper: “We still have to see how training goes today, but I can almost assure you 100 percent that Mohamed Salah will play, we are all very optimistic that he will be on the pitch.”
  • 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.

YEKATERINBURG: The talk was, of course, all about Mohamed Salah. Since the Liverpool forward injured his shoulder in the Champions League final 19 days ago, all of Egypt’s build-up has centered on whether the forward would be fit to start their opening World Cup match, against Uruguay on Friday. And, frankly, the answer remains unclear.

Hector Cuper, the Egypt manager, was upbeat on Thursday, but the word from the training camp was less definitive.

“Mohamed is doing very well, indeed,” Cuper said. “He has recovered very quickly. We’ve paid a lot of attention to him. He has had training sessions with us. We have to see how he recovers from today, but I can say almost 100 percent he will play, save for any unforeseen factors at the last moment.”

Salah took a full part in Egypt’s in-stadium training on Thursday, but it was notable that he was tentative, at best, in the windmill exercises. Where other players swung their arms above their heads, he rarely lifted his above shoulder height.

What that means, if anything, is open to interpretation: Salah must have known he was being watched and it could be he was gently teasing his observers. Certainly, there was no other sign of discomfort: His general attitude seemed relaxed.

It is also clear that he has given everything to be available to play on what will be his 26th birthday. 

“Salah did a training session yesterday,” said Cuper. “He does three training sessions per day. He does training with the doctors, by himself, personal training and very specific exercises. He has recovered from his injury, but he still trains a lot. He has to do a lot of physical and mental training. Why does he do this? Because that’s what he feels he needs to recover and he has shown great recovery so far.”

Is there a danger that the injury may make him tentative? “We’re trying to make him feel confident,” said Cuper. “Even the doctors are giving him the option whether he plays or not. I know Salah very well and he is not fearful. We know we always run a risk when we play a match. That’s something we cannot hide. In terms of him on the pitch, if he does decide to play, he will have full guarantees in terms of his physical condition. If it does turn out there is an issue, we’ll consider it and see if that can be resolved.” Which sounded rather less certain than some of his other statements.

What nobody doubts is how important Salah is to Egypt. He was joint top-scorer in African qualifying with five and scored two of Egypt’s five goals at last year’s Cup of Nations. “He could become the top goal-scorer,” said Cuper. “Why not? And one of the best payers. He has responded very well to the injury, and he has shown he has great character, personality, talent.”

Salah is the one celebrity player Egypt have, which is why a local journalist presented Cuper with a pair of felt boots to pass on to him as a birthday present, with an accompanying — and, given the temperature is in the mid-to-high teens, slightly weird — question about how he is coping with the cold.

That, clearly, is not the problem, but the shoulder may yet be. For all Cuper’s confidence, the sense is that it would be a risk to play him. But then it would also be a risk if
he did not.


FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

Updated 20 November 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: A classic clash, sublime New Orleans Saints and a bad break for Alex Smith

  • Saints once again show why they are serious Super Bowl contenders.
  • Unlucky Alex Smith suffers a horror injury.

LONDON: This is the time of year that can either make or break a team’s regular season. Are they headed for the playoffs or are they set to be on holiday in January? Here is what we learned after week 11 of the NFL.

RAMS AND CHIEFS SERVE UP A CLASSIC

Where to start analyzing Monday night’s epic in Los Angeles? It was certainly one of the best games of gridiron I have ever seen. From the first kick-off to the final seconds, both sides threw caution to the wind, with the Rams winning by three points in a 54-51 nail-biter — on the way to producing a classic clash that will still be talked about for years to come. 
American Football is often criticized for being too “stop-start,” but watching these two Super Bowl favorites go hammer and tongs for four quarters would have been enough to convert any detractor.
To put into context just how explosive both teams were, it was the first time two teams have scored more than 50 points in a match in the history of the NFL.
While many are praising the defensive qualities of a playoffs-bound Chicago, we are just glad the defensive units did not bother showing up for this one and we had the privilege of watching two blistering offenses in full flow. If either of these teams goes on to win the Super Bowl, they can pinpoint this match as one of the key moments of their season.

It was raining touchdowns in the all-time classic between the Chiefs and the Rams.



SAINTS CHANNELLING THE SPIRIT OF 2009

When the league fixtures were announced in the summer, the Saints-Eagles match-up was singled out as a test of the two team’s NFC championship credentials. Unlike the Rams and Chiefs extravaganza, though, this ended up being a damp squib of a game. 
Philadelphia just did not turn up, while the Saints — the hottest team in the league at the moment — were imperiously led by Drew Brees to a blowout 48-7 win, which now sits in the record books as worst defeat in the Eagles’ history. 
Brees threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns, meaning that the 9-1 Saints have now scored 40-plus points in three matches in a row and have become the first team in the Super Bowl era to post at least 40 points six times in the first 10 games of the season. It will take a very good team to stop this Saints side from claiming glory in Atlanta next February.

Drew Brees was once again in imperious form for the ever-improving and dangerous Saints. 



PURE ATHLETICISM TRUMPS TACTICAL PLAY-CALLS

Gridiron is an extremely technical and tactical sport, with coaches and players spending weeks perfecting certain plays. But sometimes a moment of sheer athletic prowess wins out and blows all the spreadsheets and playbook analysis out the window. Week 11 saw its fair share of brilliant moments — from Kenny Golladay’s sublime touchdown catch for the Lions against Carolina, to Juju Smith-Schuster’s unbelievable grab for the Steelers on a late, game-winning drive, not forgetting Odell Beckham’s strength to hold on in the end-zone for a Giants score against Tampa Bay. And those moments are exactly why millions of people tune in to the NFL every week.

Kenny Golladay with his moment of magic during Detriot's 20-19 win over Carolina. 



THOUGHTS WITH ALEX SMITH

Much progress has been made in preventing concussion and serious head injuries in the NFL in recent years. Rule changes and safety measures have been implemented, and we are beginning to see a reduction in the number of head and neck traumas. But in sport, horror injuries can happen — and there is little the league can do to prevent the kind of leg breaks Washington’s Alex Smith suffered during their game against the Texans. Everyone watching immediately knew the severity of the break, and it is clear Smith faces a lengthy recovery. Such injuries can end careers. Here’s hoping he makes it back.

Alex Smith being stretchered off after his horror injury suffered against the Texans.