Mohamed Salah is set to make his World Cup debut for Egypt against Russia in their Group A game on Tuesday.
The Liverpool forward, who scored 44 goals last season, sat out his country’s 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Friday despite his coach Hector Cuper declaring him “almost 100 per cent fit” to play after injuring his shoulder in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
Salah, who turned 26 on Friday, trained with his team-mates on Saturday ahead of their crunch game with the hosts who started their World Cup by beating Saudi Arabia 5-0.
The player’s agent Ramy Abbas Issa let the world know Salah was ready to feature against the Russians by tweeting: “Mohamed is fit.”
The official FIFA Egypt Twitter account confirmed Salah’s return to full fitness when they tweeted on Saturday: “Salah participated in training with his team-mates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff.
“Salah did not ask to play against Uruguay. Russia’s game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay. Winning is our only choice.”
Egypt need to take at least a point against Russia to keep their hopes of reaching the knock-out stages alive.
England get their World Cup 2018 campaign underway with a clash against Tunisia in Group G.
Gareth Southgate has moulded the Three Lions into a different beast than in previous tournaments but his new system will be tested against Nabil Maaloul’s capable Tunisian side.
Here’s a look at some of the key tactics ahead of the encounter.
One of England’s main deficiencies that immediately jumps out is their lack of playmakers in midfield. They do have players who excel at link up play in the final third but none with the ability to dictate play and control the tempo of the game.
The dearth of creativity is however compensated for by energetic, pacey forward runners. Both Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard are renowned for their bursts into the box and their finishing. Meanwhile, Sterling is perhaps the greatest threat in that regard, darting in behind the back line with increasing frequency and effect, a move he’s mastered at Manchester City this season under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage.
TUNISIA’S WAY FORWARD
Despite being one of the underdogs in Group G, Tunisia aren’t known to adopt a traditional counter-attacking strategy. Instead, they attempt to play the ball out from the back in a 4-2-3-1 system, which can bear more resemblance to a 4-4-1-1 at times.
The two midfielders in the double pivot drop deep to pick up the ball while the wide men fall back as well and tuck in to receive possession in the half spaces. It’s from there that they can attempt to find main man Wahbi Khazri quickly with direct balls towards the skipper.
OVERLOADING THE FLANKS
Not only does the 3-5-2 system help England control possession but it also serves up the option to then use those numbers on the ball to concentrate their efforts in certain areas of the pitch.
The flanks are easily overloaded to create passing angles or crossing opportunities with Harry Kane likely to be ably supported in the box by midfield runners. One of the central midfielders, a wing-back and either a forward or the holding midfielder stepping in can create passing triangles on one of the flanks.
England are all set to kick off their 2018 World Cup campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.
The Group G clash will have a youthful look to it. The Three Lions have the third youngest squad at the tournament while Tunisia’s is the fourth youngest. For many of the players on show, it’s sink or swim time.
Gareth Southgate’s side are hoping to rid themselves of the doom and gloom normally accompanies their campaigns in major tournaments.
Tunisia do have enough about them to cause an upset but given England’s run of 10 games unbeaten, the signs are positives.
NO IDENTITY CRISIS
Several England fans will be haunted by a gnawing feeling that Tunisia are just the kind of team their side’s World Cup campaign could be derailed by, and at the first hurdle no less. Many believe the current crop are among the worst in living memory but what they lack in individual brilliance, they make up for in pace, energy and a level of cohesion which has been alien to a long line of their predecessors.
Perhaps what gives them the biggest edge over previous generations is something that should be fundamental to any team – an identity. For the first time in decades, England head into a major tournament with a set system, having regularly deployed a 3-5-2 formation which has produced good results.
Gareth Southgate has done well to communicate the demands of the system to the players with complete clarity which has in turn developed an identity for the young brigade, something the manager has alluded to.
“I feel there is more structure, everyone knows their jobs,” he said. “I guess there is a clearer identity.”
England supporters can take comfort in the knowledge that their side won’t be punting long balls towards Peter Crouch when faced with a bit of resistance.
TUNISIA EYE AN UPSET
At first glance, Belgium and England should make light work of Group G but Tunisia have steadily grown into the equation with some impressive displays in recent friendlies.
Having held Portugal to a 2-2 draw and only losing 1-0 to Spain while their players were fasting during Ramadan, Engand would do well to take Nabil Maloul’s side seriously.
“We are not here to take part,” Tunisian and Leicester City centre-back Yohan Benalouane has warned. “We are here to take over.”
The boost in quality since booking their ticket to Russia has come from a rather controversial recruitment process as they signed up a host of players with Tunisian heritage from other countries. French-born players Benalouane, Saif-Eddine Khaoui, Ellyes Skhiri and Hassen only played their first games for Tunisia in March.
With the new inclusions, they definitely have a bogey-team look about them and England are no strangers to an upset in major tournaments.
The Three Lions secured just one victory over the course of their World Cup campaigns in 2010 and 2014.
COMPETITION FOR PLACES
Manchester City midfielder Fabian Delph has revealed that the starting XI for the game against Tunisia is more or less decided.
“The team’s not guaranteed, there could be changes. But from the set-up that we’ve done, it’s pretty clear who’s going to be starting,” Delph said.
While it may be common knowledge for Southgate and those within the camp, a few positions still warrant debate.
John Stones and Kyle Walker appear to have cemented their places in the back three but it’s the third centre-back slot which hasn’t had a consistent occupant. Each of England’s last four friendlies have featured a different defender in the spot – Joe Gomez, Harry Maguire, Gary Cahill and James Tarkowski. Meanwhile, Phil Jones is also in line for the same role.
Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier are in a straight shootout to start as the anchorman in midfield. Raheem Sterling’s sensational form this past season should guarantee him a starting role but even he will be looking over his shoulder following Marcus Rashford’s impressive recent displays.