MOSCOW: Egypt will be to be able to call upon Mohamed Salah as they prepare to tackle hosts Russia in their Group A World Cup encounter in St Petersburg on Tuesday.
The hosts are riding the wave of national pride after their 5-0 humiliation of Saudi Arabia in the opening game of what is proving to be a dramatic World Cup.
The pressure on Russia, who entered the tournament ranked 70th in the world, has lifted on the back of that inspired performance and instead, it is the Pharaohs who must avoid defeat if they want to keep their hopes of progression alive.
Those hopes appear brighter after positive indications coming from the team camp indicating that Liverpool star Salah will be fit to start.
The standout player in the Premier League this season was cautiously left on the bench as he watched his side succumb to a late Jose Maria Gimenez header in their 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
That defeat has thrown Egypt’s World Cup blueprint into disarray with Salah now the savior in waiting.
“Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff,” said a member of the Egyptian technical team. “He did not ask to play against Uruguay. Russia’s game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay. Winning is our only choice.”
Egypt coach Hector Cuper has continued to stress that Egypt cannot rely on one player but he will be breathing a sigh of relief as he thrusts Salah into the starting lineup to solve his pace and energy problems that were greatly exposed against Uruguay. Without their Liverpool kingpin, the Pharaohs barely tested the Uruguayan defence and mustered just three shots all afternoon in a meek display of football.
Cuper will now have Salah and possibly midfielder Tarek Hamed at his disposal, but will still need a slight alteration to his tactics if he wants to see his side adopt a more fluid approach in the attack against an aging Russian backline.
Still, the biggest hurdle of them all exists as Egypt’s winless run on the grandest stage continues. Gaining their first victory will not only upset their hosts but also open a clear run at the progressing to the next phase of the competition with Saudi Arabia in waiting.
A place in the Round of 16 appeared impossible when Salah’s name was missing from the starting lineup a few days ago. Now, it’s as possible as ever.
Possible line-ups: Russia: Igor Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov; Roman Zobnin, Yury Gazinsky, Daler Kuziaev; Aleksandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev; Fedor Smolov
Egypt: Mohammed El Shenawy, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazy, Ahmed Fathi, Mohammed Abdelshafy; Tarek Hamed, Mohammed El Neny, Mahmoud Trezeguet, Abdullah Al Said; Mohammed Salah, Marwan Mohsen.