Egypt touched down in Russia this evening ahead of their World Cup opener against Uruguay on Friday.
Mohamed Salah was part of the squad arriving in Grozny from Cairo as he battles to prove his fitness with the Pharaohs first match just four days away.
The 25-year-old has not played since suffering a shoulder injury in Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid on May 26 and is considered a serious doubt for Friday’s opener.
But such has been his dominant form for the Reds – 44 goals in all competitions this term – that he has been included in Hector Cuper’s squad even though there is no guarantee he will play at football’s global showpiece event.
Brazil striker Neymar insists the five-time champions are dreaming of winning the World Cup again in Russia.
The Paris St Germain forward scored his 55th international goal to go level with Romario and sit joint-third in Brazil’s all-time scoring charts during their 3-0 win over Austria on Sunday.
Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho also netted in a comfortable victory ahead of Brazil’s opening World Cup game against Switzerland next Sunday.
“You have to trust, you dream,” Neymar told reporters.
“You can talk, you’re Brazilian and you can dream; we’re dreaming more and more. Dreaming is not forbidden.”
Manchester City striker Jesus also insisted Tite’s side are ready for the tournament.
“All the games before the World Cup were important to reach this level of performance,” Jesus, who now has 10 international goals, told the Brazilian FA.
“Austria had quality and we knew it would not be easy. We managed to play, involve their team and make another big game. Not only was the attack well, the group went very well.”
Brazil had spent 10 days preparing at Tottenham’s training ground and beat Croatia 2-0 in Liverpool last week before Sunday’s victory.
Jesus opened the scoring nine minutes before the break when he curled in from an angle after Marcelo’s shot deflected into his path.
Neymar struck just after the hour as he sensationally bamboozled the Austria defence to score and Coutinho wrapped the victory up minutes later.
“The game was important to us. It was the last game of preparation before the World Cup. We deserved the victory, we played very well,” added Barcelona forward Coutinho to the Brazilian FA.
“That gives you confidence. I always try to be prepared to play where the coach needs me and contribute in the best way possible.”
Brazil also face Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E in Russia as they look to hit back from their shock 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany on home soil four years ago.
Neymar is now level with Romario and only behind Ronaldo (62) and Pele (77) in Brazil’s all-time record scoring charts.
He joked about Austria’s rough approach.
“We got ready for the UFC today, but it was good,” he added. “Everyone was unharmed.”
The major conundrum for Japan will be how they deal with the decision to sack manager Vahid Halilhodzic two months prior to the tournament – the upheaval hardly ideal preparation.
The Bosnian – who led the Ivory Coast to the 2010 World Cup but was dismissed before the tournament – left in acrimonious circumstances following reports of divisions between him and the players, despite a largely successful three-year stint on the pitch.
Although Halilhodzic may be gone, Japan can count on experienced heads. They also have arguably one of the most settled squads in the tournament – which will stand them in good stead.
Japan will be appearing at their sixth consecutive World Cup finals – famously making the knockout stages for the first time when they co-hosted the tournament with South Korea back in 2002. And although the squad lacks star power, they can count on a group of reliable players with plenty of European experience.
Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund and Shinji Okazaki of Leicester City should play key roles, and veteran former AC Milan string-puller Keisuke Honda remains a talismanic figure despite the fact he’s out to pasture in Mexican football with Pachuca these days.
Yuto Nagatomo and Okazaki both have more than 100 caps, while defender Maya Yoshida and midfielders Yasuyuki Konno, Honda and Kagawa are all approaching their centenary too. They have alternated their trips to the last-16 with disappointing group stage exits on three occasions.
By the natural order of things, Akira Nishino’s men are due a deeper run in Russia, having disappointed in Brazil four years ago under current UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni, finishing fourth in a weak group with just one point.
Besides Colombia, who were the fairytale story of the tournament, Group B contained a below-par Ivory Coast and a poor Greek side. But Japan have bounced back in qualifying for Russia with a confident display in the AFC.
They came out on top in a tricky final stage, finishing a point ahead of Saudi Arabia as both qualified automatically.
The former Manchester United schemer has had a quiet season by his standards as Borussia Dortmund’s struggles continue, recording five goals and five assists in the Bundesliga, but he will carry the creative burden for his nation.
With the country rushed into a change of plan after the sacking of Halilhodzic, former technical director Nishino has an unenviable job on his hands to prepare for a World Cup bid. Has he been afforded too little time or will his appointment actually galvanise a nation?
The skipper is hugely experienced, with the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder set to break into the list of the top five most-capped Japanese players. Converted into a sweeper by Frankfurt, and now Bayern Munich boss, Niko Kovac to superb effect last season.
Japan possess one of the oldest squads at this World Cup so filtering through a young star is far from easy. Indeed, Ueda is the only outfield player under the age of 25 but the defender is likely to be restricted to a utility role with the Kashima Antlers centre-back only just breaking through at club level.
KEY FACTS AND STATS
– During a 13-year career for japan between 1964 and 1977, Kunishige Kamamoto scored 80 goals in 84 games – placing him fourth on the list of best goals to international game average (0.95)
– Japan are record four-time winners of the AFC Asian Cup – triumphing four times (1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011)
– Japan had 21 consecutive native managers in charge for 69 years before Dutchman Hans Ooft took over from Kenzo Yokoyama in 1992
73 DEF 77 MID 76 ATT
World Cups competed at
6 (First in 1998)
World Cup record
P17, W4, D4, L9
Round of 16 (2002, 2010)
P18, W13, D3, L3
Goalkeepers: E. Kawashima (Metz), M. Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), K. Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol).
Defenders: Y. Nagatomo (Galatasaray), T. Makino, W. Endo (Urawa Reds), M. Yoshida (Southampton), H. Sakai (Marseille), G. Sakai (Hamburg), G. Shoji, N. Ueda (Kashima Antlers).
Midfielders: M. Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), K. Honda (Pachuca), T. Inui (Eibar), S. Kagawa (Dortmund), H. Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), G. Haraguchi, T. Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), G. Shibasaki (Getafe), R. Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)
Forwards: S. Okazaki (Leicester), Y. Osako (Werder Bremen), Y. Muto (Mainz).
Will battle Colombia and Poland to reach knockouts. avoid defeat in the group opener against the South Americans and that will set them up nicely.