Mohamed Salah has reportedly told Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that his recovery is going well following his injury in the Champions League final, suffered when tangling with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.
The Liverpool star’s World Cup participation was put in doubt when he tearfully walked off after suffering a shoulder injury in that match, but reports out of the Egypt camp have consistently affirmed that Salah will be ready for the Pharaohs’ first appearance at the footballing showpiece since 1990.
“The president was reassured on the health condition of the player ‘Mohamed Salah’, who affirmed that his condition is improving notably and that he is on his way to recovery, god willing,” presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said on Saturday.
Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool across all competitions in a stunning debut season for the club, was included in Egypt’s final 23-man squad having undergone treatment for his shoulder treatment in Spain.
The country’s football federation said their star player was expected to be out for “not more” than three weeks in total, which could mean he misses the Pharaohs’ World Cup opener against Uruguay on June 15.
He could conceivably return for Egypt’s next match, against hosts Russia on June 19, or their final Group A fixture against Saudi Arabia on June 25.
Egypt fly out to Russia on Sunday after a final training session at home on Saturday night.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he hasn’t had the opportunity to keep a track of the latest World Cup news in the United States because of the time difference.
The Swedish star, who has had an action-packed stint with LA Galaxy in MLS, said: “I haven’t heard a lot about the World Cup because normally it’s bigger talk. But maybe because I am over here and the time difference.”
Ibrahimovic retired from international football two years ago but had hinted at a possible return on numerous occasions. However, nothing has come out of it.
Costa Rica were responsible for a couple of upsets at the last World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay on
their way to the quarter-finals in Brazil where they were defeated on penalties against the Netherlands.
The man presented with the daunting task of emulating the heroics of former manager Jorge Luis Pinto and his dedicated troops is Oscar Ramirez.
The 53-year-old has largely kept the same system in place, retaining the 5-4-1 formation and it’s naturally helped them maintain a fairly miserly defence.
Los Ticos conceded just eight goals in 10 World Cup qualifying games as they finished second behind Mexico from the CONCACAF region. That defensive record was only bettered by the group winners who conceded just seven.
The 4-0 win over the United States was the highlight of their qualifying campaign but they were exposed in recent international friendlies.
Despite a 1-0 win over Scotland, defeats to Hungary and Tunisia by the same scoreline and a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Spain means they will head to Russia with a sense of trepidation.
Costa Rica have a tendency to sit deep without possession and even when going forward, it’s not always pretty. They’re a hard-working side but the onus lies heavily on their captain Bryan Ruiz, playing from either the left or right side of midfield, to drop into pockets of space in the middle and conjure a few openings.
Meanwhile, Celso Borges is the midfield anchorman and chief distributor. Marcos Urena has his work cut out for him up front as he’s often left isolated for most of the game. Between the sticks is Keylor Navas, under constant pressure over his place at Real Madrid, but who proved himself worthy after such a fine tournament four years ago.
In Russia, Costa Rica will be competing in their fifth World Cup tournament, quite an achievement for a country whose population is under five million.
Prior to 2014, they failed to advance from the group stages in the previous two editions although they did make it to the round of 16 in their maiden appearance during the 1990 tournament in Italy.
Their undisputed number one starred in Brazil four years ago as they conceded just twice in normal
time during the tournament. His performance earned him a move to Real Madrid and he’ll have to
play out of his skin again.
The former midfielder served as assistant manager from 2006 to 2008. He was then Paulo Wanchope’s second in command after Pinto stepped down, only to be handed the head coaching role when the former Premier League midfielder resigned after a post-match fight.
He’s the one who makes things happen in the team. Renowned for his supreme technical ability and creative
qualities, the Sporting winger is responsible for much of his side’s attacking play. At 32, the former Fulham player is now an experienced figure in the team.
The 23-year-old is one of Costa Rica’s few young prospects. The left-back started well with New York City FC a couple of years ago – named their defensive player of the year in 2016 – but has endured injury setbacks. Suffers in the air but is good going forward and strong in the tackle.
KEY FACTS AND STATS
– Pinto, their coach at the last World Cup, was inspired by German discipline and has a sports degree from Cologne University
– Costa Rica were one of only three unbeaten teams in normal time during the 2014 World Cup
– In 2011, Bryan Ruiz was the highest-paid athlete in Costa Rica, according to ESPN
– 21, shots on target saved by Navas at World Cup 2014
69 DEF 73 MID 73 ATT
World Cups competed at
5 (First in 1990)
World Cup record
P15, W5, D4, L6
P16, W9, D5, L2
K. Navas (Real Madrid), P. Pemberton (LDA), L. Moreira (Herediano).
C. Gamboa (Celtic), I. Smith (Norrkoping), R. Matarrita (NYCFC), B. Oviedo (Sunderland), O. Duarte (Espanyol), G. Gonzalez (Bologna), F. Calvo (Minnesota United), K. Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), J. Acosta (Aguilas Dorados).
D. Guzman (Portland Timbers), Y. Tejeda (Lausanne), C. Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), R. Azofeifa (Herediano), R. Wallace (NYCFC), B. Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), D. Colindres (Saprissa), C. Bolanos (Saprissa).
J. Venegas (Saprissa), J. Campbell (Real Betis), M. Urena (LAFC).
They are comfortably the underdogs in a group that features Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia – but the same was said of their chances four years ago.