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Salah set for comeback in Egypt’s opener

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Yekaterinburg: Egypt coach Hector Cuper said that star striker Mohammad Salah has recovered from his shoulder injury and will almost certainly play against Uruguay in the sides’ World Cup opener on Friday.

“We still have to see how training goes, 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,” Cuper said on Thursday.

The 62-year-old Argentine added: “Salah is very good and he’s recovered very quickly.”

Salah, who sustained the injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid on May 26, is one of the biggest names at the World Cup and crucial to the north African side’s hopes of making it out of a weak-looking Group A also featuring the hosts and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt play Uruguay — tipped by some to be dark horses — in Yekaterinburg in just the second game of the tournament, following Russia against Saudi Arabia in the opening match.

Salah was one of the outstanding players in the world this season as he helped propel Liverpool to the Champions League final.

Salah, who turns 26 on the day of the game, gave 100 million frantic Egyptians a massive boost on Wednesday when he joined a squad training session at their Grozny base.

His World Cup dream was left on the brink when he exited the Champions League final in tears after Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos wrestled him to the ground nearly three weeks ago.

Another Egypt player who is in line for a landmark occasion is 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam Al Hadary, who, despite his age, says he feels like a 20-year-old.

“I have dealt with three generations of players, each one of them was different,” Al Hadary said. “But this generation is just great. People go on about me being 45, but I feel I am like my teammates — like I am 20.”

Al Hadary isn’t assured of getting any game time for Egypt in the World Cup in Russia but if he does, he’ll make history.

Whether he’s selected to start ahead of Sherif Ekramy or Mohammad Al Shenawy or goes on as a substitute, Al Hadary would become the oldest person to play in a World Cup.

Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who was 43 when he played at the last World Cup in Brazil, holds the record.

Egypt opens its campaign against Uruguay on Friday and will meet Russia and Saudi Arabia in other Group A games.

Al Hadary, who enjoys celebrity status in Egypt, has rarely spoken about the age record, preferring instead to focus on the ambitions of the Pharaohs in their first World Cup since 1990. It’s a return that has given many of Egypt’s 100 million people a welcome reprieve amid harsh economic conditions.

Being in the World Cup is a particularly special occasion for Al Hadary, who gained fame and respect as the Pharaohs’ goalkeeper when they won three successive African titles between 2006 and 2010. It was a time when the Egypt team was peaking on the continental level, but kept on failing to qualify for the World Cup.

They are here now, and Al Hadary doesn’t hide what it means to him.

“I have a goal that I have dreamt of all my life: That we qualify for the second round,” he said.

Al Hadary has been doing his part, showing full commitment to earning a starting spot.

During training sessions in Grozny, the team’s base in Russia, Al Hadary appears raring to go, always walking energetically to the pitch ahead of his teammates, and diving at full stretch for saves. In fitness drills, there’s no visible difference between Al Hadary and teammates who are 20 years younger.

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