Salah fit to play in Egypt’s opener against Uruguay

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

The em­pha­sis on the team re­turn­ing to the World Cup af­ter 28 years has given way to at­ten­tion on an in­di­vid­ual player ahead of Egypt’s World Cup opener against Uruguay.

Liver­pool star Mo­hamed Salah is ex­pected to re­cover from a shoul­der in­jury he sus­tained in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in time to play at least some part of Egypt’s World Cup cam­paign.

But will he be fit to play Friday’s open­ing game on the day he turns 26? Mil­lions of Egyp­tians are anx­ious to know, and the in­tense in­ter­est isn’t re­stricted to Egypt. The pres­ence of the coun­try’s na­tional hero is a key fac­tor for his team’s chances against Uruguay, and per­haps ad­vanc­ing from the group stage for the first time. Uruguay’s World Cup ex­pe­ri­ence and the depth of the squad make the South Amer­i­can team a fa­vorite for the game and in Group A, which also host Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia. The Rus­sians meet the Saudi’s in Thursday’s tour­na­ment opener.

SALAH’S IN­FLU­ENCE

Salah is a player who in­spires and de­liv­ers for both his club and coun­try. He scored 44 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions in his de­but sea­son for Liver­pool and be­came the lead­ing scorer in the Premier League. His goals fired Egypt to the World Cup for the first time since 1990, earn­ing Salah the deep grat­i­tude of his na­tion and re­spect from ri­vals.

Salah scored five of Egypt’s eight goals in the last round of Africa qual­i­fy­ing, in­clud­ing one from the spot in in­jury time against Congo that se­cured a spot in Rus­sia with a game to spare. With­out him, Egypt was strug­gling to find the back of the net in warmup games against Colom­bia (0-0) and Bel­gium (3-0).

Salah showed clear signs of progress in his re­cov­ery Tuesday, drib­bling the ball around the pitch and run­ning at pace af­ter work­ing on his shoul­der with a phys­io­ther­a­pist on the side­lines.

“We are here af­ter 28 years. We are happy about that, but ev­ery one of us has big am­bi­tions and hopes,” Salah told re­porters in Grozny.

ONE FOR THE AGES

Egypt goal­keeper Es­sam El Hadary may very well make his­tory on Friday, when he’s hop­ing to be­come the old­est player ever to play in a World Cup. But the 45-year-old El Hadary’s spot is far from sure. He’s vy­ing for se­lec­tion with Sherif Ekramy and Mo­hamed El­shenawy in what team of­fi­cials say is a “heated but healthy and de­cent “com­pe­ti­tion to be top choice.

Egypts de­fense, an­chored by West Bromwich de­fend­ers Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr, will be se­ri­ously tested by Uruguay’s strike duo of Edin­son Ca­vani and Luis Suarez.

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