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.


Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Updated 19 June 2018
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.