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Egypt Loses to Russia on Salah Return

Egypt Loses to Russia on Salah Return

Wednesday, 20 June, 2018 - 05:00
Mohamed Salah reacts at the end of Egypt's defeat to Russia. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The return of a star player Mohamed Salah could not save Egypt from suffering a second defeat in the World Cup, which virtually sealed its elimination from the tournament.

Egypt was defeated 1-3 by hosts Russia.

Salah could take some consolation from scoring his country’s only goal through a penalty.

But by then, Russia were already three up and this game was as good as gone.

"If he was not injured, it is very difficult to know what would have happened," Egypt coach Hector Cuper said. "But we know the quality he has."

On show here was not the Salah that had tormented Roma and Manchester City, or scored 32 goals in the Premier League and 10 to power Liverpool to the Champions League final.

This was Salah making the best of things after a return from injury, hoping to deliver a single, match-winning moment even if he knew a complete performance was never on the cards.

The way he shuffled off at the end, as Russia's substitutes rushed on to celebrate a victory in Group A, suggested even he knew it was a long shot.

Certainly, he was not 100 percent fit, that much had been clear on Monday when Salah jogged around the Saint Petersburg Stadium pitch, testing out his left shoulder with a series of tentative barges but opting out when his team-mates swung their arms in circles.

It was clear too in the first 30 minutes, when the 26-year-old barely touched the ball, and when he did, turned back, looked inside or, on more than one occasion, gave it away.

"He wasn't in all the preparation with us and that cost him a little bit of his physical ability," Cuper said.

He had little option but to play him, of course, given a second consecutive match missed would likely mean Salah being fitter only for a dead rubber against Saudi Arabia.

Realistically, Egypt had to win here and in playing Salah, Cuper played his trump card.

There was a psychological boost to be gained too, as Egyptian fans, draped in flags and coated in face paint, bounced and cheered whenever Salah's face appeared on the big screen.

Meanwhile, Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov hopes the best is yet to come for the World Cup hosts after they virtually sealed their place in the last 16.

An own goal by Egypt captain Ahmed Fathi opened the floodgates on a sodden night in Saint Petersburg before goals from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba bolstered Russian hopes they can defy pre-tournament expectations with a deep run into the latter stages.

"I hope there are many more to come," said Cherchesov when asked if he had enjoyed the best day of his life by almost certainly leading Russia into the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.

A run of seven games without a win leading into the tournament had dampened expectations in the host nation.

However, after smashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game, Russia showed they are a force to contend with in the latter stages of the competition by blowing Egypt away with a three-goal salvo in 15 second-half minutes.

"We have made a step in the right direction," added Cherchesov when asked if Russia could now go onto win the World Cup.

And he claimed too much was made of poor friendly results in the past year when facing marquee opposition such as France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina.

"Everybody remembers our games from the past but people forget when you play against the teams we played against, you need to be prepared very well.

"We did our homework in the preparation and selection of the players. We are very happy to give this joy to our supporters."

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