Mo Salah ‘almost certain’ to play in Egypt’s opener

Ian Watson

Egypt talisman Mohamed Salah looks set to play in the country’s first World Cup match in 28 years.

Pharaohs manager Hector Cuper is confident the Liverpool forward will be in the side to face Uruguay in the Group A game in Ekaterinburg on Friday.

Salah sustained a shoulder injury during the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid on May 26 but trained with the ball for the first time on Wednesday, convincing Cuper he is ready.

“Salah is doing very well indeed, he’s recovered very quickly,” Cuper told reporters at his pre-match press conference. “I can almost assure you 100 per cent he’ll play.

“We’re trying to make him feel confident. The doctors are giving him the option to play or not. I know him very well, and I’m sure he’s not afraid.”

The hopes of a nation rest on Salah, who scored the penalty which secured Egypt’s first World Cup appearance since 1990.

It would be a momentous day for the Liverpool player as a World Cup debut on Friday would come on his 26th birthday. The day also coincides with the start of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that celebrates the conclusion of Ramadan.

Egypt will also play hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia during the group stage and Cuper intends to stick to the formula that has served the team well so far.

He said: “Sometimes we change our plans depending on the nature of the game, but we have achieved a lot and will not change the way we play. We will play with our best players.

“But don’t misunderstand me – we may make some small changes depending on the circumstances of each game and the team we face.”

After scoring 44 goals, Salah goes into the tournament on the back of an outstanding season for Liverpool, much as Uruguay’s Luis Suarez did four years ago.

Suarez almost propelled the Reds to the Premier League title in 2014 but his attempts to replicate that form at the World Cup ended in controversy after a biting incident involving Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.

He was later banned by world governing body FIFA before moving to Barcelona.

Coach Oscar Tabarez says Suarez, 31, has learned from his past mistakes.

Tabarez told reporters: “Suarez comes to the tournament as a very mature player. “What happened in Brazil is part of reality and has helped him mature. Luis is very smart and well prepared mentally.

“With all the good things he can do, he is key for the team.”

Tabarez, 71, believes his team can make an impression in Russia.

He said: “Getting here for us is already important. We arrived with the expectation of enjoying the World Cup and achieving great things.”


More from Planet Sport:

EXCLUSIVE: Andy Murray makes further plans to prepare for Wimbledon (Tennis365)

Ranking Russia’s World Cup squad by how easily they could beat you up (Planet Football)