Salah races to be fit for Egypt’s WC opener against Uruguay

The Myanmar Times - - World Cup 2018 -

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 (00) 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.

URUGUAYAN AT­TACK Ca­vani was in great shape for Paris Saint-Ger­main with 40 goals dur­ing the sea­son and also had a tour­na­mentlead­ing 10 goals in South Amer­i­can qual­i­fy­ing — three more than the likes of Lionel Messi and Gabriel Je­sus.

He has 42 goals for Uruguay and poses a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the Egyp­tian de­fense.

Suarez is also poised to per­form on the sport’s big­gest stage, aim­ing to make a mark for his at­tack­ing prow­ess. At the 2010 World Cup, he was part of the squad that placed fourth but he was mostly re­mem­bered for his red card for han­dling a goal-bound header by Ghana’s Do­minic Adiyiah.

Four years later, Suarez was ex­pelled from the tour­na­ment in Brazil for bit­ing Italy de­fender Gior­gio Chiellini. Uruguay sub­se­quently lost to Colom­bia in the round of 16.

EL MAE­STRO’S MILE­STONE Coach Os­car Tabarez leads two-time cham­pion Uruguay into his fourth World Cup, and third in a row. He was in charge in 1990 and again in 2010 and 2014. Tabarez’s teams have al­ways made it out of the group stage, in­clud­ing a semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance in South Africa in 2010. Nick­named “El Mae­stro” (The Teacher), Tabarez brought the much needed dis­ci­pline to Uruguay teams. – AP

Photo: AP

In this Oc­to­ber 8, 2017 file photo, Egypt’s Mo­hamed Salah, cen­ter, bat­tles for the ball with Congo’s Delvin N’Dinga, right, and To­bias Badila dur­ing the 2018 World Cup group E qual­i­fy­ing soc­cer match at the Borg El Arab Sta­dium in Alexan­dria, Egypt.

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