Egypt coach Hector Cuper has warned Russia that his star striker Mo Salah is fit for the crucial World Cup 2018 match on Tuesday evening.
Egypt must at least draw with the host nation in St Petersburg on Tuesday to keep their World Cup hopes alive and Cuper has placed the emphasis on Salah helping Egypt achieve just that.
“Salah is fit,” Cuper told reporters on Monday. “We always carry out a last physical test before we announce our line-up and today we will have an important test for him to see how he does.
“I think he will be able to play. He is an essential piece in our team.”
Salah spent last season scything through some of the best defences in Europe, scoring 44 goals for Liverpool in the most prolific campaign of his career.
He has scored 33 goals in 57 appearances for Egypt and was their top scorer in the World Cup qualifiers, sealing their place in Russia with a stoppage-time penalty against Congo that sparked wild celebrations in the football-mad country.
The scoring fest made Salah an integral part of Egypt’s hopes of doing well in the tournament.
Statistically, Egypt is most successful football side in Africa. But Russia 2018 is its first appearance at the global event in 28 years.
Despite the consistent success enjoyed by the Pharaohs – Egypt have won seven Africa Cup of Nations titles, at least two more than their closest rivals Cameroon – the team has been largely missing on the biggest stage, qualifying only twice previously: 1934 and 1990.
In the 28 years since its last World Cup appearance, Egypt won four of their total seven continental crowns – the golden age of Egyptian football.
Egyptians are hoping Salah’s return will turn around the fortunes for the national side.
“Egypt doesn’t have a plan B. There was only one and that was Salah,” said journalist Eslam Magdy.
“The team has so many problems when Salah is not there, if you have watched the friendlies you will know exactly what I mean. We are lost without him.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies