Injured Salah unsurprisingly put in Egypt’s World Cup squad
CAIRO (AP) — Mohamed Salah, shoulder injury and all, was unsurprisingly named in Egypt’s World Cup squad on Monday.
The Liverpool forward was hurt in the first half of the Champions League final and is doubtful for the team’s opening match against Uruguay on June 14.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper also picked veteran goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary. At 45, el-Hadary is on his way to becoming the oldest person to play in a World Cup match.
Midfielder Mohamed Elneny, still nursing an ankle injury from playing with Arsenal, was also chosen.
Cuper announced the 23-man squad following a morning practice session in Italy, where the team has camped for the past 10 days. The announcement followed two unconvincing performances by Egypt, a 1-1 draw against Kuwait on May 25 and a scoreless draw against Colombia on Friday.
Egypt’s final warm-up match will be against Belgium in Brussels on Wednesday.
Salah, the Premier League’s top scorer, almost singlehandedly led Egypt to its first World Cup since 1990. But there have been conflicting reports about how long it would take him to recover, with the Egyptian Football Association optimistically saying he would be ready for the World Cup. After Uruguay, Egypt will face host Russia on June 19 and play Saudi Arabia on June 25 in Group A.
Liverpool has not said when Salah, who is being treated in Spain, will be fit again.
Even when Salah was available, Egypt often struggled to consistently threaten up front because he didn’t get the same service as with Liverpool.
Turkey-based Mahmoud Hassan is the most likely candidate to replace Salah on the right wing for the opening match. Ramadan Sobhi, who plays for Stoke, is set to play on the left wing while Marwan Mohsen would be the center forward.
Cuper predictably picked the towering Ahmed Hegazy to lead Egypt’s back four. Hegazy’s teammate at West Bromwich Albion, Ali Gabr, was also named in the squad, alongside Al-Ahly trio Ahmed Fathy, Saad Sameer and Ayman Ashraf.
According to Cuper, the dawn-to dusk fast required of Muslims during the current month of Ramadan has had some negative impact on the players’ performance in the recent friendlies.
Ramadan began on May 17 in Egypt. Its final day will either be the day before the match against Uruguay or on match day.
Associated Press writer Samy Magdy contributed to this report.