Egypt coach ‘very optimistic’ Salah will play opener

World Cup Predictions

World Cup Predictions

The usually ruthless Barcelona forward was saved embarrassment for his profligacy by a late header from centre back Jose Gimenez which earned the twice world champions a first ever victory in a World Cup opener.

Gimenez rose perfectly to meet a Carlos Sanchez free kick and score the goal that broke a 48-year Uruguayan curse of failing to win their opening game at World Cup finals.

Salah's absence came as a surprise after coach Hector Cuper had said on Thursday he was nearly 100 percent certain to play.

The result means Russian Federation are top of Group A after their 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the tournament's opening game on Thursday. The Africans had been without injured key striker Mohamed Salah but defended resolutely.

There were rows of empty orange seats at the freshly rebuilt arena in the industrial city, situated in the Ural Mountains, in a match that Uruguay won 1-0 thanks to an 89th minute victor.

Uruguay's veteran coach Oscar Tabarez, who is likely to field a fearsome front two of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, said he hoped Salah is fit.

Liverpool FC signed Salah in a £39m deal from AS Roma last summer and the Egypt star scored 32 times to set a new Premier League record and win the PFA player of the year award. "I can nearly assure you 100 percent he'll play", Cuper said in the pre-match press conference.

"Mo Salah is an important player for us, that is without a doubt, " Cuper said after Friday's (Saturday NZT) match.

We can confirm that the official attendance for the match between Egypt and Uruguay in Ekaterinburg is 27,015.

One thing's for sure and that's that Mohamed Salah is not at 100 per cent.


The 25-year-old has been sidelined with a shoulder injury which he picked up in Liverpool's Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid three weeks back.

'Yesterday we were quite certain that he would play.

Egypt's decision to bench Salah for the biggest game in decades was baffling to supporters excited to see his spark on the pitch, but it was not unfounded.

Salah is crucial to Egypt's hopes of making it out of a weak-looking group also featuring hosts Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia.

Cuper also entertained a question from a reporter about Salah's prospects of emerging as the top scorer at the tournament.

Having been selected for Russian Federation 2018, the veteran overtook the previous record - set by 43-year-old Faryd Mondragon in Brazil four years ago - as the oldest player in World Cup history. "Perhaps we should have attacked more, but I think today we did go on the offensive".

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