Yekaterinburg: 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 percent 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.
Salah, who turns 26 on the day of the game. And Cuper hinted on Thursday that it was the player who had the final say whether to play. “Doctors are giving him the option. If he does decide to play he will have full guarantee (about his condition) and I am sure that he will be fine,” said Cuper.
Meanwhile, Uruguay head into the game with the focus on stars such as Luiz Suarez but with their World Cup hopes equally resting with veteran coach Oscar Tabarez, who is battling chronic illness.
Friday’s game will see the 71-year-old take charge of the famously tournament tough South American side at his fourth World Cup finals, the first being back in 1990. In all he has been in charge of Uruguay’s national side for more than 180 games. Along the way Tabarez, nicknamed “El Maestro” (the teacher), known for his undemonstrative manner, guided Uruguay to a fourth-place finish in South Africa in 2010, and each time ensured his team has got out of the group stage.
He has done so while battling a debilitating neurological condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome, which severely restricts his movement — and in Russia may possibly become the first coach in World Cup history to use a wheelchair.
So far, he has been spotted overseeing Uruguay’s preparations at their Bor sports centre base on Monday, just outside the city of Nizhny Novgorod, walking with the aid of a crutch.
But despite the painful personal hurdles, it is clear who is in charge of the Celeste. His A-list players are unequivocal in their support for Tabarez. Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin support the coach at every step and consider him “untouchable”. “The team knows that El Maestro does not have to scream to tell you what to do,” Suarez said.