Mohamed Salah was kept on the bench in Egypt’s opening World Cup defeat against Uruguay on Friday because the team did not want to risk further injury to the Liverpool star.
Salah, who turned 26 on Friday, injured his shoulder three weeks ago in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
On the eve of the Uruguay match in Yekaterinburg, which the South Americans won 1-0, Egypt coach Hector Cuper said Salah was fit, raising the Pharoahs’ hopes that he would start the Group A clash.
“He’s certainly important, nobody can deny that, but you need a good team too — and we are a good team,” said Cuper. “If Mo had been on the pitch it may have been different but we can’t know that.”
“He did not play today because we wanted to avoid risk or danger but I think that he will be fine for the next match,” said the coach.
“Yesterday we were quite certain that he would play. At the end of training he was examined in depth and there was some doubt if he fell or was hit by another player.
“We thought perhaps he might get another injury and we want to avoid that so we decided not to take that risk.
“We want him on top form for Saudi Arabia and Russia.”
Jose Gimenez was the unlikely 89th-minute match winner as Uruguay defeated an Egypt side shorn of star man Mohamed Salah 1-0 in their World Cup opener on Friday.
Uruguay’s deserved last-gasp victory leaves them and Russia in early control in Group A after the hosts’ 5-0 mauling of Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener on Thursday.
A poor game looked likely to end in stalemate but with Uruguay cranking up the pressure late on, defender Gimenez rose to power a header into the top corner and break Egypt hearts.
Aside from Liverpool ace Salah failing to get off the bench with his shoulder injury, another major talking point was also off the pitch — large portions of empty seats in one main stand at the Yekaterinburg Arena were an embarrassing sight for FIFA and local organisers.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani had a couple of half-chances for Uruguay in the first half, the best made by himself when he juggled the ball and lashed it on the volley from outside the box, but it was deflected over.
Attacking partner Luis Suarez — in his first World Cup appearance since his biting ban of 2014 — was largely quiet in an unremarkable first period, doing his best work when he drifted between the lines of Egypt’s defence and midfield.