YEKATERINBURG, Russia: Mohamed Salah has recovered from his shoulder injury and barring a last-minute hitch the Egyptian star will play in their World Cup opener against Uruguay on Friday, coach Hector Cuper said.
The striker’s return after weeks of uncertainty is a massive boost for Egypt and for the tournament in Russia because it means one of the hottest players on the planet at the moment will be in action.
"We still have to see how training goes today, but I can almost assure you 100 per cent that he’ll play, we are all very optimistic that he will be on the pitch," Cuper said on Thursday, shortly before leading out his squad at Yekaterinburg Arena – with Salah among them.
The 62-year-old Argentine Cuper added: "Salah is very good and he’s recovered very quickly."
Salah, who sustained the injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid on May 26, is crucial to Egypt’s hopes of making it out of a weak-looking Group A also featuring hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt play Uruguay – tipped by some to be dark horses – in just the second game of the tournament, following Russia against Saudi Arabia in the opening match later Thursday.
Salah was one of the outstanding players in the world this season as he helped propel Liverpool to the Champions League final.
But his World Cup dream was left on the brink when he exited the final three weeks ago in tears after Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground.
Salah, who turns 26 on the day of the game, gave 100 million frantic Egyptians a huge lift on Wednesday when he joined a squad training session at their Grozny base.
And Cuper hinted on Thursday that it was the player who had the final say whether to play.
"Doctors are giving him the option," said Cuper.
"If he does decide to play he will have full guarantee (about his condition) and I am sure that he will be fine.
"If we see at the last minute that there is an issue then we will see if it can be resolved, but certainly he does not feel afraid."
Cuper has attempted to dismiss the notion that Egypt are a one-man side, but with 44 goals in all competitions this season for Liverpool, Salah’s badly timed injury had become a national obsession back home and made global headlines.
Uruguay defender Diego Godin, who plays in Spain for Atletico Madrid, did not take kindly to an "inopportune" question in a subsequent press conference asking if he intended to follow Ramos in giving Salah some roughhouse treatment.
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.
"I will be very happy for him if he plays in a dream match for him, the injury was a great shame and we all felt great solidarity for him," said the 71-year-old.
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