'We are not worried referee could favor hosts Russia,' Egypt director Leheta

Eslam Omar , Sunday 17 Jun 2018,
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Egypt
Soccer Football - World Cup - Group A - Egypt vs Uruguay - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 15, 2018 Egypt's Mohamed Abdel-Shafy in action with Uruguay's Nahitan Nandez REUTERS

Egyptian national football team director Ihab Leheta has expressed confidence ahead of the Pharaohs' anticipated second World Cup match against Russia on Tuesday in St Petersburg, affirming that they are not worried that the referees could favour the hosts.

"Not at all. We never put these matters into consideration," Leheta told a reporter who asked him if the team fears that referees would favour Russia in the upcoming game, according to an audio clip published on the Egyptian Football Association's (EFA) official website on Sunday morning.

"It will be a very tough game of course, because we are meeting the hosts in a venue that could witness 60,000 spectators, but the team members are determined to win," he added.

Leheta has revealed that the technical staff does not fear Russia's high morale after their surprising 5-0 victory in the opener against Saudi Arabia, which he described as a "tricky result."

"Russia have been studied carefully and their 5-0 win is not the norm. We are capable of defeating them," he stressed.

The seven-time African champions, who are playing their third World Cup ever and their first since 1990, have gained momentum after their brave appearance in the opener against Uruguay, despite losing with a killer header by Jose Maria Gimenez from a corner shot by Carlos Sanchez in the 89th minute.

"Psychologically, the team are more ready now after getting in tune with the World Cup atmosphere. They will definitely perform more confidently after delivering a good show in the opener," Leheta explained.

Egypt had not expected much from the Uruguay game, and it was obvious that manager Hector Cuper was bidding on the draw in his attempt to secure a place in the round of 16, but his frontline failed to make a solitary threat from successive counter-attacks, especially with the absence of star forward Mohamed Salah.

"Cuper will be focusing on the attack. We are aware that we have no option but to win the Russia game if we want to proceed… No, he did not regret the lack of strikers in his squad. He is a professional manager who trusts and relies on his final selection," Leheta said.

The team director has assured that there are no absent or injured players in the squad, saying that Fathi's muscle strain during morning training was minor and that Tarek Hamed has recovered from his back injury, which he sustained in the game against Uruguay.

As for Salah, Leheta said that he "will be at the game after he participated in two training sessions. He will also take part in the final training on Monday."

After delivering the best football season ever by an Egyptian player – gaining all individual English Premier League trophies – Salah injured his shoulder at the UEFA Champions League final in Kiev last month in his game with Liverpool, thanks to an unforgivable tackle by Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos.

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