GROZNY, Russia, June 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Mohamed Salah has the ability to light up any team, particularly Egypt. The Liverpool striker has been in superb form this season, but playing at the World Cup will be a new experience for him - if he fully recovers from a shoulder injury.
Egypt qualified for the tournament for the first time in 28 years, and its chances in Group A against host Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay mainly rest on the 25-year-old Salah.
Salah was injured in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid last month and his absence was obvious in Egypt's three final warmups: Draws with modest Kuwait and Colombia, and a 3-0 loss to Belgium.
"It's difficult to find anyone who can replace Salah," coach Hector Cuper said. "But we have a substitute plan, because the team cannot depend on just one player."
The loss to Belgium may have been somewhat deceptive, with the Egyptians taking their game up a notch or two during brief spells in the second half, featuring bursts of energy and a touch of passing flair. But the squad's chronic shortcomings were on display for most of the match.
Too often they gave the ball away, unable to capitalize on the handful of chances they had and committed defensive errors that allowed Belgium to score two of its three goals.
A seven-time African champion qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1990, Egypt takes on host Russia on June 19 and plays its final Group A match on June 25 against Saudi Arabia.
Here's a closer look at the Egypt team:
Cuper took over in 2015 after a dismal run under former United States coach Bob Bradley. The Argentine inherited a seven-time African champion that had failed to qualify for the last three continental championships.
Not only did Cuper lead the team to the 2017 African Cup of Nations, but they reached the final before losing to Cameroon. The World Cup exile then ended with a game to spare in qualifying.
The accomplishments halted media criticism of Cuper's tactics and turned him into a national hero. So much so that football federation officials are hoping Cuper reverses plans to leave the job after the World Cup.
However, doubts persist over whether Cuper has done enough to improve a squad that is notorious for losing the ball, squandering chances in front of goal and aerial weaknesses.
At 45, Essam el-Hadary could become the oldest player to compete at a World Cup. Russia may be his last stop in an illustrious career spanning three decades and that took him to clubs in Switzerland, Sudan and Saudi Arabia, where he plays for Al-Taawoun.
Despite his vast international experience, El-Hadary must guard against some of the lapses of concentration and poor decision-making that surfaced in recent years.
Ahmed el-Shennawy was El-Hadary's backup before being ruled out of the World Cup with a left knee injury. That leaves Al-Ahly goalkeeper Mohammed el-Shennawy, who is no relation, as the replacement.
Ahmed Hegazy has been growing in confidence and the West Bromwich Albion center-back is Cuper's obvious choice in that position. Playing alongside him will likely be Ali Jabr, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel-Shafi.
Egypt's defenders proved their worth against Colombia, when they gallantly endured wave after wave of attacks by the South Americans.
However, lapses of concentration and wrong judgment calls allowed the Belgians to punish them with three goals that could have possibly been denied. It will be intriguing to see how they try and stop Uruguay's attacking duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
There is good news here with Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny's return from an ankle injury sustained in a Premier League game to put in a commanding performance in the Belgium match. Salah's former teammate in Basel, Switzerland, Elneny will be joined in the midfield by Tarek Hamed. Both will play behind playmaker Abdalla Said, who positions himself closer to the forward trio.
With 44 goals to his name this season in all competitions, there can be no real substitute for Salah if he is not fit to play against Uruguay. Not one from among the squad's other forwards comes anywhere near the marksmanship, speed and agility of Egypt's talisman.
In Salah's absence, Cuper will most likely field a forward trio of Marwan Mohsen in the middle with Mahmoud Hassan, better known by his nickname Trezeguet, and Amr Warda on the flanks. Stoke City's Ramadan Sobhy has shown himself to be ineffective on the left wing in warmup games.
Egypt, which didn't advance past the opening round in its previous World Cup appearances in 1934 and 1990, will open against Uruguay on June 15. The team based in Grozny will then take on Russia on June 19 and Saudi Arabia on June 25.
Goalkeepers: Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly), Essam el-Hadary (Al Taawoun), Mohamed el-Shennawy (Al Ahly)
Defenders: Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa), Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles FC), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek), Ahmed Hegazy (West Bromwich Albion), Saad Samir (Al Ahly)
Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly Jeddah), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Mahmoud Kahraba (Al Ittihad Jeddah), Sam Morsy (Wigan Athletic), Shikabala (Al Raed), Ramadan Sobhy (Stoke City), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa), Amr Warda (Atromitos)
Forwards: Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
GROZYN, June 10, 2018 (News Wires) – Egypt’s Mohamed Salah arrived in Russia today, with the Pharaohs hopeful the star striker can complete a dramatic injury comeback in time for their opening World Cup match against Uruguay.
Salah and his teammates touched down in Grozny ahead of Egypt’s third appearance at the World Cup, ending a drought stretching back to 1990.
The seven-time African champions play their opening Group A fixture on Friday, June 15, against Uruguay.
“The team is ready for the competition and morale is high,” national team manager Ihab Leheta said at the Grozny International Airport.
The Pharaohs have never progressed beyond the group stages and Salah is seen as crucial to their chances of making an impression at the tournament in Russia.
The goal-scoring talisman has been sidelined since exiting Liverpool’s 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in tears after injuring his shoulder when Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground.
But such has been his form for the English Premiership club -- 44 goals in all competitions for the season—that he has been included in Egypt’s squad even though there is no guarantee he will play.
Team doctor Mohamed Abou al-Ela told ON Sport TV on Saturday night that they would make an assessment on Salah’s ability to play early this week.
“We won’t be able to tell until after two days,” he said, declining to give any more details.
“We will not have him play unless he has totally recovered.”
On May 30, Egypt officials said Salah would be out for “not more” than three weeks, which would rule him out of the Uruguay match but put him in the frame for Russia on June 19 and Saudi Arabia on June 25.
The player attended Egypt’s final training session in Cairo last night but did not take part, restricting himself to briefly dribbling the ball on the corner of the pitch.
CAIRO, June 10, 2018 (News Wires) - Encircled by expectant cheers of Egyptian fans, Mohamed Salah appeared at the Pharaohs' final pre-World Cup training session and kindled hopes he can overcome injury to aid Egypt's first shot at the tournament in nearly three decades.
Liverpool's star striker, who is recovering from a shoulder injury that saw him crash out of the Champions League final, strolled around the Cairo pitch talking to colleagues and supporters, but did not take part in the team's last late night practice before heading to Russia.
Horns blasted, snack-sellers hollered and chants of "Come Salah, Come Salah!" rang through the capital's stadium, crowded by thousands of fans keen to encourage their team ahead of their first World Cup appearance since 1990.
Salah, who hit a stunning 44 goals for Liverpool last season following his move from Roma, is the linchpin of Egyptian hopes in Russia.
He has been picked for the World Cup squad despite having been forced out of the Liverpool's 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in tears clutching his left shoulder.
Many of his fans had feared he would miss the World Cup altogether, but his appearance in Cairo has reignited expectations in The Pharaohs' key striker.
"He will participate, God willing, he must," said Seif Ibrahim, a 24-year-old salesman wearing Salah's Egypt jersey.
Fans screamed in delight when Salah's name was read out over the loudspeaker, while those able to get to the pitch took selfies with their hero.
He gave fans a sliver of hope when he managed to briefly dribble the ball on the corner of the pitch, before returning to the sidelines.
"I was so sad, but now I'm happy to see him in real life, and he seems to be doing fine even if he isn't actually training with the others," said Nahed Mostafa, 38, who attended the session with her young children.
The Pharaohs, record seven-time African champions, have qualified for the World Cup for only the third time.
They begin their Russian campaign on June 15 against twice former winners Uruguay.
The Egyptian football federation said after Salah's injury that he could be out for three weeks, meaning he would miss their opening Group A match but could then be available against Russia on June 19 and Saudi Arabia on June 25.
Supporters at the Cairo ground, waving the national flag, also yelled enthusiastic approval for the team's other star players -- goalkeeper Essam El Hadary and midfielder Abdallah El Said.
Police in riot gear patrolled the stadium, which was filled to around a quarter of its capacity -- a rare sight at Egypt's highly-restricted football grounds.
Authorities imposed a ban on fans attending local matches after a 2012 stadium riot in Port Said left 74 people dead. The restriction was partially relaxed earlier this year.
"This is an exceptional event because a whole generation has been excluded from stadiums," said Mostafa Abdallah, a 64-year-old schoolteacher, who wore a checkered shirt and a delighted grin.
"I came for this historic moment, and to admire my country's team."
MADRID, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - Egypt's and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah has said that his departure from the Champions League final in Kiev after an injury was the worst moment of his career.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, Salah who is recovering from his injury and looking forward to be with the Pharoahs in their first match in the World Cup 2018 which will be against Uruguay said "Now I'm better. I hope to play the first game against Uruguay, but that will depend on how I feel when it approaches."
"When I fell to the ground, I had a mixture of physical pain and a lot of worry. Also anger and sadness for not being able to continue playing the Champions League final. Moments later, I also thought about the possibility of not playing in the World Cup and that was a devastating thought," he added.
Asked about Egypt's participation in the Word Cup in Russia, he said "It's the first time in 28 years that we qualified... It was not normal because we won the African Cup seven times, and we were champions in 2006, 2008 and 2010. It was common to win the African Cup, but we didn't qualify for the World Cup."
"I think we have a great team and a great coach [Hector Cuper], we want to qualify for the next round and do well," he told the Spanish newspaper. " He (Cuper) has great experience, he is a good coach and he helps us improve our performance. He's not hard, I think he's a good coach, a good man. We all help each other."
"Tactically. He's helped me to defend better, but he also finds a way to make it easier to attack. I think I've improved with him."
On the expected pressures on him in Russia, Salah said:"The pressure was to qualify for the World Cup. Of course, someone can now say 'ok, we've qualified, that's it'.
"But for me it's not like that, we want to make history, achieve something different. In my head the pressure is to achieve something different from what we have done. Not just going there, three games and thank you very much. That doesn't go through my head."
MADRID, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is confident he will be fit enough to take part in Egypt's World Cup opener against Uruguay in Yekaterinburg next Friday, Spanish newspaper Marca reported on Saturday.
The 25-year-old went off with a shoulder problem in the first half of Liverpool's 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in last month's Champions League final but the speedy forward expects to play some part in Egypt's first Group A fixture in Russia.
“Now I'm feeling better,” Salah told the Spanish daily. “I'm hopeful of being able to play in our first game, but this will depend on how I feel when the day comes around.”
Salah, who laughed off Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos's claim that he would have been able to continue in Kiev had he taken a pain-killing injection, scored the penalty that sealed Egypt's place at a first World Cup in 28 years and insists they are not in Russia to make up the numbers.
“We've got a great team and a great coach. We want to get into the next round and do things well there,” he added.
“We're strong as a group, we all have the same objective, which is to win and that's the most important thing. We don't just have one strong point, but the main thing is we play together as a group.
“The pressure was to qualify for the World Cup. Of course, you can then say 'right, we've got there, that's that', but for me it's not like that. We want to make history and achieve something different.
“It's not a simple case of going, playing three games and thank you very much. That's not going through my head.”
Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia are the other teams in Egypt's group.
LIVERPOOL, June 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Egypt's national team boss Hector Cupe hits back after Sergio Ramos’ recent controversial comments.
Ramos and Salah were involved in a duel during the final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Kiev on May 26 which led to the Egyptian suffering a game-ending shoulder injury.
The issue forced the 44-goal winger off the pitch in tears, initially putting his World Cup hopes in doubt - although it is now hoped that Salah will be fit to feature for Pharaohs at some point in their group stage campaign.
But with the subject of Salah’s injury having remained well talked-about thanks to events such as an Egyptian lawyer filing a €1billion lawsuit against Ramos for allegedly intentionally injuring Salah, Ramos further fanned the flames yesterdat.
The Madrid skipper declared that “everything is magnified” surrounding the incident with Salah and explained: “He could have played on if he got an injection for the second half. I have done it sometimes.”
Egypt boss Cuper has responded on Salah’s behalf, declaring that the free-scoring attacker would have played on to help the Reds - who lost 3-1 to Real in Ukraine without their star man - if there was any possibility he could have done so.
"I'm not a doctor, I don't know if [Sergio] Ramos is a doctor, but it's a player who is playing a final and has an injury," Cuper told reporters.
"I don't have any doubt that if he could keep playing he would do it, because a Champions League final is extraordinary."
Salah is making steady progress as he looks to find full fitness in time to be involved in Egypt’s first World Cup since 1990.
Their opening game against Uruguay on June 15 is an unlikely return date but the 25-year-old could be back for their second Group A game against Russia four days later.
Cuper added to journalists: "My opinion is that Salah has an important injury, there is a recovering [process] that we can see and we are optimistic about the chances he has to play in the World Cup.
"We listen to many things, but the reality is that the doctors recover or confirm a problem in a player."