We're ready to halt Salah: Russia coach

MOSCOW • Many teams have tried and failed but Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov believes the World Cup hosts have figured out a way to stop Egypt's striker Mohamed Salah today in Saint Petersburg.

The 26-year-old scored 44 goals in a sensational first season with Liverpool and is keen to make his debut after missing the Pharaohs' 1-0 loss to Uruguay in the Group A opener with a shoulder injury.

Salah's name has been mentioned often since Russia's 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia in last Thursday's curtain-raiser, but Cherchesov said he was not concerned.

"We know how to play against him," he said. "We are ready to stop Salah and we will."

The bold promise highlights a new swagger that had been missing from the world No. 70 team for much of the past year.

Russia's convincing win over the Saudis was preceded by a seven-match winless run and a spate of injuries that wiped out almost the entire defensive line.

But the men in red are now on the cusp of making their first knockout stage of a World Cup in post-Soviet history.

In contrast, Egypt's 1-0 loss to Uruguay has left them in a precarious position. And, while Salah has been declared 100 per cent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, there is evidence to suggest that he is still bothered by the effects of landing heavily on his left shoulder in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago.

As he returned to training last Saturday, Salah was seen needing help from team-mates to lift a training top over his head.

"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat by Uruguay. Winning is our only choice," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told Fifa.com.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper will ask his midfielders and defenders to stick close together in two rigid banks of four and restrict the space that Russia will seek to exploit. The game plan is simple - get the ball to Salah's feet quickly.

Cherchesov started centre-back Sergei Ignashevich, 38, and full-back Yuri Zhirkov, 34, against Saudi Arabia. If they retain their places, Salah will relish the chance to torment Russia's ageing defence and make the coach eat his words.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2018, with the headline 'We're ready to halt Salah: Russia coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe