If Egypt are to succeed in their first World Cup final since 1990, then it is crucial that they get Mohamed Salah fit.
For his domestic club, Liverpool, he has broken record after record, becoming the third player in the history of the club to score over 40 goals a season.
Yet the Pharaoh’s star player will be sidelined for the first two weeks of the World Cup due to a dislocated shoulder he picked up in the Champions League Final.
In his absence, his teammates will need to graft and take points where they can in the build-up to his return.
The Egyptian with the Midas touch
In his return to England, Salah has stunned critics by outperforming players across the league playing in a similar position.
The Chelsea reject who was deemed not good enough for the Premier League in his first stint under Jose Mourinho, has really blossomed under Jurgen Klopp, scoring 43 goals for the Reds this season, a figure ahead of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s goal tally.
This has pleased Egyptian manager Hector Cuper to no end. Cuper’s conservative 3-4-2-1 system encourages this counter-attacking style, and with his speed and ability, Salah has often led the charge.
He showed off his skills in front of the goal in Egypt’s opening qualifier against Portugal, scoring his team’s only goal as the team lost 2-1 overall.
Yet in his absence, Egypt have struggled to hit teams on the break.
This was clear in their draw against Colombia on Friday night. Their attack was feeble and, without Salah’s stamina and speed, they could not mount a real threat against the Colombian defence, spending long periods of the game camped in their own half.
Hector himself acknowledged the impact Salah’s absence was having on the team by stating that it had ‘negatively affected’ their performance in a press conference after Friday’s goalless draw in Italy.
Who needs to step up in Salah’s absence?
As a result, other players will need to step up the plate to compensate for his absence.
Egypt will need to be at peak efficiency for Egypt’s opening game against Uruguay, a difficult game in which Salah will be an absentee.
It will be especially difficult for Cuper’s men as they will face a Uruguayan defensive backline featuring Diego Godin and José Giménez: two players that have developed at Atletico Madrid, under Diego Simeone, a manager known for his defensive competence.
Other players will need to step to make sure they avoid a heavy defeat – players like Mohamed Elneny.
Elneny can ensure defensive rigidity in the centre of the pitch by breaking up potential attacks and cutting out through balls to Suarez and Cavani. For his domestic side, Arsenal, he has proved that he can be a calm and level-headed individual, and will be a welcome form of rationale in the face of the opposition’s attack.
At the other end of the pitch, Ramadan Sobhi and the Mahmood brothers will need to create chances to get Egypt in behind the Uruguayan defence. Sobhi’s pace will be needed to help the team break on the counter and, as Salah’s make-shift understudy, all eyes will be on the 21-year-old to see if he can deliver.
Salah has proved crucial for the hopes of both his domestic side Liverpool and Egypt across last year’s qualifying games.
His shoulder injury will set him back by two weeks at the minimum and his teammates will need to rally themselves in his absence to gain points and give Egypt and themselves a fighting chance in time for his return.
The entire hopes of a nation have rested on Salah’s shoulders and, now he’s out, it’s up to the other players to ensure that Egypt do well in their first World Cup finals since 1990.
Can Egypt get anything out of their first two games against Uruguay and Russia with Salah absent? Let us know by commenting below.
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