YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AFP) - Mohamed Salah was not included in Egypt's starting line-up for their World Cup opener against Uruguay on Friday (June 15) following his shoulder injury.
The star striker, who turned 26 on Friday, suffered the injury three weeks ago in his English Premier League club Liverpool's 3-1 Champions League defeat by Real Madrid.
On the eve of the Uruguay match, Egypt coach Hector Cuper said that Salah was fit, raising hopes in the football-mad Arab nation that he would start the Group A clash.
Salah's absence is a blow to Egypt's hopes of making a strong start to their World Cup assault in Russia, against a talented Uruguay side boasting former Liverpool forward Luis Suarez.
The Egyptians will start with Marwan Mohsen, who plays for domestic side Al Ahly, as the lone out-and-out striker.
Salah's omission is also something of a surprise given Cuper's comments on Thursday, when he said: "We still have to see how training goes today, but I can almost assure you 100 per cent that he'll play, we are all very optimistic that he will be on the pitch."
The 62-year-old Argentinian added: "Salah is very good and he's recovered very quickly."
Salah, one of the best players in the world this season, is crucial to Egypt's hopes of making it out of a weak-looking group also featuring Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The hosts put pressure on the rest of the group with a 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia in their opening match on Thursday.
Salah was outstanding as he helped propel Liverpool to the Champions League final. But his World Cup dream was left on the brink when he exited the final in tears after Real skipper Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground.
Cuper has attempted to dismiss the notion that Egypt are a one-man side, but with 44 goals in all competitions this season for Liverpool, Salah's unfortunate injury became a national obsession back home and made global headlines.