CAIRO • Cheered on by expectant Egyptian fans, Mohamed Salah appeared at the Pharaohs' final pre-World Cup training session on Saturday and raised hopes he can overcome his shoulder injury in time for the Russia global showpiece starting on Thursday.
Horns blasted, snack-sellers hollered and chants of "Come Salah!" rang throughout, as thousands of fans thronged the Cairo Stadium to encourage the national team ahead of their first World Cup appearance since 1990.
Liverpool forward Salah, who is recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him into an early exit from the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid last month, strolled around the pitch talking to team-mates and supporters, but did not take part in the team's last practice session before heading to Russia.
Many fans had initially feared Salah, who shoulders Egyptian hopes at the Finals, would miss the World Cup altogether, but his appearance in the capital on Saturday has reignited expectations.
"He will participate, God willing, he must," said Seif Ibrahim, a 24-year-old salesman wearing Salah's shirt.
Fans screamed in delight when Salah's name was read out over the loudspeaker, while those at pitchside took wefies with their hero.
He also tantalised the home fans when he managed to briefly dribble the ball before returning to the sidelines.
Salah is confident that he will be fit enough to take part in Egypt's World Cup Group A opener against Uruguay in Yekaterinburg on Friday, Spanish newspaper Marca reported on Saturday.
Hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia are the other teams in the group.
"Now I'm feeling better," the 25-year-old told the daily.
"I'm hopeful of being able to play in our first game, but this will depend on how I feel when the day comes around."
Salah, who laughed off Real captain Sergio Ramos' claim that he would have been able to continue in Kiev had he taken a pain-killing injection, insists Egypt are travelling not just to make up the numbers.
"We want to make history and achieve something different. "It's not a simple case of going, playing three games and thank you very much. That's not going through my head," he added.
Salah also told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday that he is well on the road to recovery.
"The president was reassured on the health condition of Salah, who affirmed that his condition is improving notably and that he is on his way to recovery," government spokesman Bassam Radi said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS