Preview: Egypt look for Salah inspiration in vital clash against Russia

Hatem Maher , Monday 18 Jun 2018,
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Egypt
Egypt's Mohamed Salah (Reuters)

Egypt will turn to probably the only man who can finish off their counter attacks - Mo Salah, of course - when they meet hosts Russia in a make-or-break World Cup clash in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

The Pharaohs were widely praised for a solid defensive display against a mighty Uruguay side featuring the likes of fearsome attacking duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but they had their resistance broken by a 90th-minute winner from defender Jose Gimenez on Friday.

They barely tested Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera despite launching some of their trademark breakaways, giving away possession in the final third with some poor passes or predictable moves.

They were clearly shorn of creativity without talisman Salah, who coach Hector Cuper opted not to rush back into action after he recovered from a shoulder injury that he picked up in Liverpool's 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid in last month's Champions League final.

The red-hot winger looked on from the bench with agony as Gimenez rose between a couple of defenders to send a bullet header home at the death. It was not the best of birthdays for Salah, who turned 26 on that day.

"Salah is an important player but we need to have a good team. If he had been on the pitch the result might have been different," Cuper said.

“I think we had what we had and tried to do our best," he said of the toothless attack.

However, boosted by the expected return of Salah to their starting line-up, Egypt will have a chance to redeem themselves and keep alive their hopes of advancing to the round of 16 on their first World Cup appearance in 28 years.

They practically have no option but to beat Russia and secure their first-ever World Cup win after the hosts gained a considerable advantage by hammering Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game, making it difficult for anyone to contest their goal-difference superiority.

"Egypt's game with Salah is different from the one they play without him," said Russia forward Alexei Miranchuk.

"He is a good player who determines his team's game. We will see what he is capable of showing against us."

Egypt can take heart from an inspired display by inexperienced keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who earned the man of the match award with a series of impressive stops against Uruguay, thwarting Suarez twice in two one-on-ones and producing a splendid one-handed save to smother a fierce volley from Cavani.

They will have a fully-fit squad to choose from against Russia after combative central midfielder Tarek Hamed shook off a back injury, which led to him being replaced early in the second half against Uruguay.

Russia will miss a key player though, with playmaker Alan Dzagoev ruled out of the game after sustaining an injury in the opening win over Saudi Arabia.

 (For more sports news and updates and a special World Cup 2018 coverage, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports )

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