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.


Al-Nassr ready to challenge for title after signing Brazilian Giuliano

Updated 21 August 2018
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Al-Nassr ready to challenge for title after signing Brazilian Giuliano

  • Riyadh club have not won the title since 2015 and have set their stall out to win it for the ninth time.
  • Brazilian Giuliano is the latest star to sign for Al-Nassr, joining Nigeria international Ahmed Musa.

LONDON: Al-Nassr are ready to challenge for the Saudi Pro League title after a busy summer in the transfer market and elsewhere. That is the message from the Riyadh club who have their sights set on reclaiming the title they last won in 2015.
The side finished third last season but under the energetic leadership of new president Saud Al-Suwailem, the eight time champions ended the transfer window on Monday by confirming the signing of former 
Brazilian international Giuliano from 
Fenerbahce for a fee of €10 million ($11.5 million).
It is the second biggest deal that Al-Nassr have done since the end of last season after the Ahmed Musa transfer, the Nigerian international arriving in early August from Leicester City Premier League. And having seen the 28-year-old attacking midfielder score 14 goals in the Turkish league last season, the club feel Giuliano is a great addition to their expanding squad.
Not only that, the club has brought in former Liverpool and Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones, former Watford star and Morocco international Nordin Amrabat, Peru international defender Christian Ramos and also welcome back Saudi star Yahya Al-Shehri from his loan in Spain.
“We are very happy with the squad going into the new season,” an Al-Nassr official told Arab News.
“It was already a good one but we have strengthened in every area and especially have added some very exciting attacking players. If the coach can get the new signings to settle quickly then we could have a good season.”
There is no automatic demand for the title but an improvement on last season when Al-Nassr finished 12 points behind champions and Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal is required.
“We know that it won’t be easy as the top teams all look to be stronger after spending on some good talent from overseas,” added the official.
“We want to be challenging for the title, that is where we should be. It helps that we also have a coach that has done it before.”
For Al-Nassr, the return of Jose Daniel Carreno could be a game-changer. The Uruguayan tactician had a successful spell with the club and lifted the 2013 league title and the Crown Prince Cup in the same year. He returned to the club in March and his knowledge of Al-Nassr and the league is seen as vital.
“I think the changes to the team have been of great benefit,” Carreno said after last week’s 2-1 win at UAE side Al-Jazira in the Arab Champions Cup. “We have more firepower going forward and we will look to be aggressive and put teams on the backfoot, and press higher up the pitch than before.
“There is still work to do but we are moving to where we want to be. The league is going to be tough this time with Al-Hilal looking strong and signing players, and Al-Ittihad will not have the kind of season they had last time but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
There have been developments off the pitch too. President Al-Suwailem was appointed in April and has been working hard to improve standards at the club and increase revenues.
Earlier this month, the president went to the UAE to sign a four year sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines that is reportedly worth SR50 million ($13.34 million) a year.
“There is more energy at all levels of the club,” said the official.
“Of course, it depends on what happens when the season starts but we can’t wait for the season to start.”