YEKATERINBURG (Russia) • Mohamed Salah has recovered from a shoulder injury and is almost 100 per cent certain to play in their World Cup opener against Uruguay, Egypt coach Hector Cuper said yesterday, ending weeks of suspense about the fitness of his most important player.
Cuper went further by predicting on the eve of the match that Salah could emerge as one of the tournament's most prolific goalscorers.
"Mo is doing very well indeed," he told a news conference before the squad's last training session ahead of today's match.
"I can almost assure you 100 per cent that he will play, save unforeseen circumstances at the very last minute."
Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool last season, injured shoulder ligaments in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid on May 26 after Real skipper Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground.
He has not played since, keeping fans in suspense before Egypt's first World Cup finals in 28 years.
Cuper shrugged off any doubts over whether Salah, who turns 26 today, would feel sufficiently confident of his physical state to be able to perform at his best.
"We're trying to make him feel confident - even the doctors are giving him the option to play or not, but I know Salah very well and I'm sure he's not afraid, he's not fearful," he said.
A Russian reporter staying at Egypt's team hotel said that Salah had also been working with a trainer until after midnight following their arrival in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday.
Cuper also entertained a question about Salah's prospects of emerging as the top scorer at the tournament. "Why not? He could become the top goalscorer here and one of the greatest players."
Uruguay are the toughest opponents for the North African team, but they will fancy their chances of advancing from Group A, which also includes Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Uruguay defender Diego Godin, who plays for Atletico Madrid, did not take kindly to an "inopportune" question in a subsequent press conference asking if he intended to follow Ramos in giving Salah some roughhouse treatment.
Uruguay's veteran coach Oscar Tabarez said he hoped Salah is fit.
"I will be very happy for him if he plays in a dream match for him, the injury was a great shame and we all felt great solidarity for him," he said.
Uruguay have a danger man of their own in the form of Barcelona forward Luis Suarez.
But the 31-year-old arrives at this tournament looking to dispel the memory of the infamous bite on Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in Brazil in 2014, as well as the goalline handball that earned him a sending-off in the quarter-final against Ghana four years earlier.
Tabarez believes Suarez has matured and will come good in Russia.
"He's got the right mindset for this World Cup and he is meeting all my expectations," the 71-year-old said. "In addition to being a great player, he is very smart, very intelligent and we are going to really capitalise on him."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
EGYPT V URUGUAY
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