Egypt coach Hector Cuper has dismissed suggestions that Mohamed Salah is set to quit international football.
Liverpool forward Salah is reportedly unhappy with the Egyptian FA at being used for political ends, including being pictured with controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a man accused of numerous human rights violations.
Egypt were based in the Chechen capital Grozny during the World Cup, with Kadyrov making Salah an honorary citizen of the Russian republic.
A miserable tournament for Cuper’s Pharaohs ended with a surprise 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in Volgograd, a third successive defeat which left them pointless and bottom of Group A.
Speaking about Salah potentially quitting the national team, Cuper said at his post-match press conference: “I don’t think so, I don’t think so.
“I don’t think it’s true because all of those who are here – and those who couldn’t come – really, really support and appreciate the opportunity of playing for the national team, so I don’t think that’s true.”
Both teams were already eliminated ahead of Monday’s dead rubber following successive defeats against Uruguay and hosts Russia.
Salah lobbed Egypt ahead with their first World Cup goal from open play since 1934, but his celebration was notably subdued.
The 25-year-old, who also scored with a penalty in the previous match against Russia, then missed a golden chance which could have helped them end the competition on a high.
After Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary – the oldest player to appear at a World Cup – saved a penalty from Fahad Al Muwallad, the Green Falcons turned the game around thanks to a second spot-kick, converted by Salman Al Faraj, and Salem Al Dawsari’s dramatic injury-time winner.
Despite finishing with three defeats from three games, Cuper feels his players performed well in Russia and were unlucky to lose two games to late goals.
“I think we have played well, it’s true that the results weren’t good, we have lost all three matches,” said the Argentinian, whose contract with Egypt expires at the end of the tournament.
“And I am disappointed that we have lost two games – one in the 90th minute (Uruguay), and the other one in the 95th minute (Saudi Arabia) – that’s what makes me sad and disappointed.
“I’m not going to give an evaluation one to 10 of my team. I think that a score from one to 10 is not the right thing to do.”
Saudi Arabia’s comeback win was their first success at a World Cup since they beat Belgium 1-0 in Washington at USA ’94.
Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi was pleased with how his players reacted to losing their two opening games and said it was up to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to choose whether he will continue to lead the team.
“The association will have to decide what they want to do, it doesn’t depend on myself,” said the Spaniard.
“We’ll see what happens over the next few days.
“I am really, really happy with the players, the way they have responded.”
A subdued Mohamed Salah got on the scoresheet for Egypt but could not avoid a third-successive World Cup 2018 loss as Salem Al Dawsari earned a deserved 2-1 win for Saudi Arabia in the final throes at Volgograd Arena.
Salah, 26, belied nagging doubts about a shoulder injury and off-field reports of imminent retirement to lob the Pharaohs into the lead on 22 minutes.
The ascendant Green Falcons had two first-half penalties that needed review by VAR. Fahad Al Muwallad’s first was saved by 45-year-old record-breaking goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, before Salman Al Faraj did the business deep into first-half injury time.
A draw then seemed apparent before a delightful move was finished off by Villarreal loanee Al Dawsari’s lashed effort into the bottom corner.
Keisuke Honda ended his lengthy international goal drought for Japan to earn a 2-2 draw with Senegal and keep the race for progression at World Cup 2018 wide open in Group H.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane took advantage of an awful mistake from goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to deflect in an 11th-minute opener for the Lions of Teranga. New Real Betis winger Takashi Inui levelled things up in style on 34 minutes when he curled a shot into the bottom corner.
Japan dominated chances after the interval, but fell behind when 19-year-old full-back Moussa Wague lashed in on 71 minutes. Samurai Blue were then able to fight back for a second time when Pachuca forward Honda tapped in at the back post after a scramble, ending a drought that stretches back to September 2016.
The result at Ekaterinburg Arena left both teams on four points at the midway point in the fight to make the round of 16.