Mohamed Salah scores but Egypt face World Cup heartbreak

Mohamed Salah

GETTY Egypt star Mohamed Salah could be fit to face Russia tomorrow

Three minutes after that, Artem Dzyuba put the result beyond doubt when he chested down a long ball, put it through centre back Ali Gabr's legs and fired home.

Only by then, Russian Federation were home and dry, an own-goal from Ahmed Fathi and strikes from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba putting the hosts on the brink of the last 16.

Salah did score Egypt's first goal at a World Cup since 1990 with a penalty after he had been hauled down 17 minutes from time, but it was too late to regain the momentum for the disappointing Pharaohs.

Not bad for a man who, before the tournament, had played only 33 minutes under Russia's current coach and hadn't started an global game since 2015. Keeping Egypt three points behind would leave the north Africans needing a goal bonanza of their own against the Saudis, and Salah or no Salah, it is not the kind of challenge they tend to find comfortable.

His presence in the starting line-up after sitting out Friday's 1-0 defeat to Uruguay provoked a feverish excitement from the thousands of Egyptian fans that poured into the 65,000-capacity Saint Petersburg stadium to nearly even up the numbers in the stands with the hosts.

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After a tight first half Russia's breakthrough came just two minutes after the restart.

"We created a lot of chances, maybe without playing so well, but the Egypt goalkeeper [had a great game] and in a moment we all fell into the feeling that the ball did not want to enter [the net]". "But obviously we couldn't do that, as the priority was to get him fit again". Manager Hector Cuper, speaking at the pre-match press conference, said that Salah was indeed fit to play.

Although keen to shield the other members of his Pharoahs' squad from accusations of being passengers in a one-man team, Cuper acknowledged Egypt's hopes of avoiding an early exit would be greatly increased by having his world-class star available. Russian Federation meanwhile were still riding the wave of positivity after their mauling of Saudi Arabia on day one.

He replace Amr Warda in the only change to the side that lost to Uruguay.

"We do not use the word "problem" around here", he said.

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