Hector Cuper confident Mohamed Salah will be fit to face Russia, but is promising nothing

Will Mohamed Salah be fit enough to face Russia? Hector Cuper is promising nothing
Updated 18 June 2018
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Hector Cuper confident Mohamed Salah will be fit to face Russia, but is promising nothing

  • Egypt face hosts needed to get at least a draw to keep their hopes of making it to the knockout stages alive.
  • Mohamed Salah missed opening defeat to Uruguay, but could make his tournament debut in Saint Petersburg.

SAINT PETERSBURG: Egypt are confident that Mohamed Salah will be fit to play in their vital World Cup clash against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday but coach Hector Cuper is making no guarantees.
Salah dislocated his shoulder in Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in this year’s Champions League final in May and did not appear in Egypt’s 1-0 loss to Uruguay on Friday. That defeat means that the Pharoahs need to take something from the host nation in their second Group A match or risk being eliminated with a game to spare.
 “Salah is fit,” Cuper said.
“In the previous match, we thought he was fit but we always carry out a final test on our players and we will do the same against Russia. I hope he will be fully fit to play and I think he will fit as he is an essential part of our team. I am optimisitc.”
Earlier on Monday, Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov claimed that his team, fresh after thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament on June 14, had a plan to stop the man who scored 44 goals for Liverpool this season and was named the Premier League player of the Year.
“Each coach has his own plans and must prepare how he sees fit,” Cuper said.
“Whether Salah can be stopped or not, different coaches will have different strategies.”
The former Inter Milan and Valencia boss admitted however that Salah is vital as Egypt look to rediscover their scoring touch after finding the target just twice in the six games since securing qualification for the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
“Salah is one of the best players in the world. It is an honor and privilege to be his coach as he he talented but also humble and a real team player.
“Obviously he is an important player for us and I say this with the greatest respect for all the players in the Egyptian squad. When we don’t have him, we feel his absence and then we have to make alternative plans.”
Cuper has been criticized in Egypt for what was seen as overly defensive tactics against Uruguay when the team were denied a point in the last minute. The 62 year-old however refused to promise a more cavalier attitude against Russia despite the need for goals.
”We have an indentity, a personality and while it may not please everyone, that is our style,” he said.
“It has worked well for us. Maybe we have been hard-pressed to move forward but this Egyptian team has done some things very well. Everyone plays to the best of their strengths. Sometimes we just lack that last touch of the ball.”
Cuper also insisted that he did not regret selecting an extra attacker to give him more options in Russia.
“I may have made mistakes but I have no regrets. There is no point. Now we are just looking forward to the next game and are focused on getting the right result against Russia.”
Egypt finish the group against Saudi Arabia on June 25 in Volgograd.


Big-name stars have stands packed as records fall in new Saudi Pro League season

Updated 10 min 48 sec ago
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Big-name stars have stands packed as records fall in new Saudi Pro League season

  • A total of 102,509 fans went to Saudi Pro League clashes over the past weekend.
  • The total attendance this season has already reached 249,018, with the GSA setting a target of three million fans over the course of the season.

LONDON: Saudi Arabian officials are delighted with the record-breaking attendances that have been the hallmark of the first few rounds of this season’s Saudi Pro League.
Round three of the current campaign saw the highest number of fans attend games since official records were kept. A total of 102,509 fans went to stadiums up and down the country as defending champions Al-Hilal maintained their perfect start to remain top of the table.
This was in contrast to a total of 19,341 who watched games at the same stage last season and 20,361 from the 2016-17 campaign. 
The latest figures confirm an encouraging overall upward trend. So far in the three rounds already played, the total attendance has already reached 249,018. In the 2017-18 season overall, just over one million passed through the turnstiles. During the summer, the General Sports Authority, the body which oversees all sports in the country, set an ambitious target of three million fans for the new season.
“The season has started as well as we could have hoped for in terms of fans coming to games and we have seen increases of over 500 percent from last season and the season before that,” an official from the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) told Arab News.
“Clubs have been working hard to try and engage with fans and while there have been some free tickets handed out, the standard of football that fans are watching is better than before. We know that we have to keep working hard but it is a great start.”
So far the action has been entertaining and the 100,000 plus fans saw 29 goals in just eight games, with all but eight scored by overseas stars. Many of the big-name signings made by the big clubs have hit the ground running.
Ahmed Musa went to Al-Nassr for a league record fee of around €16 million ($19 million) from Leicester City in the English Premier League. The Nigerian scored a hat-trick at Al-Quadisiya to maintain his team’s unbeaten record. Al-Hilal’s Bafetimbi Gomis and Omar Abdulrahman are other expensive stars who are already producing the goods while Argentina’s Cristian Guanca, who plays for Al-Ettifaq, tops the scoring charts with four goals.
 “The standard of many of the foreign players who came before the season has been better than ever before,” added the official.
“Some of them are already showing the kind of talent they have and have settled in quickly. Others will take more time so as the season goes on then we should see this level continue.”
SAFF administrators believe that this Saudi Arabia’s World Cup campaign — which ended with a victory over Egypt , the Green Falcons’ first win at the competition since 2006 — has helped with the feel-good factor. Allowing women to enter stadiums to watch games is another reason why there have been increased attendances.
The biggest crowd of the weekend was recorded in Jeddah when 41,000 fans turned up to watch Al-Ahli defeat Al-Hazm 2-0. The club provided 10,000 tickets free of charge but it was still an impressive turnout, with the raucous crowd making plenty of noise
Al-Ahli star Nooh Al-Mousa was delighted with the attendance and has called on fans to keep supporting the team in such numbers.
“It was great to see so many people come here to support us,” the midfielder said.
“The atmosphere was great and it really inspires the players. It not only increases our energy and enthusiasm, it also helps us get better results. We hope that the fans keep coming back as we will have a bright future together.”