Salah, 25, has not played since he injured shoulder ligaments during Liverpool’s Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid on 26 May. “I can almost assure you 100% he will play, save unforeseen circumstances at the very last minute,” said Cuper.
The match will be Egypt’s first game at a World Cup finals in 28 years. Defender Ali Gabr should also be fit to play after bruising his face in training.
Uruguay are expected to name a youthful midfield featuring 20 year-old Rodrigo Bentancur and 22-year-old Nahitan Nandez. But they boast plenty of experience elsewhere, not least the potent frontline of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two other teams in Group A.
The build-up to this game has been dominated by the fitness of Mohamed Salah, who is in a race against time to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in the Champions League final last month.
Salah joined the squad for training on Wednesday, completing the warm-up and then finishing the rest of the session away from the group. The team doctor admitted afterwards that they were monitoring his progress “day by day”, while head coach Hector Cuper played down the importance of the forward, saying “our tactics don’t solely revolve around him”.
The fuss around the Liverpool star could well play into the hands of the Uruguayans, who seem to have gone under the radar despite being strong favourites to top Group A.
The experienced squad contains four players with over 100 appearances, and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera (97) and forward Luis Suarez (98) should reach triple figures in caps by the end of the group stage. The potent forward pairing of Suarez and Edinson Cavani have also scored 93 international goals between them.
All the omens point to a Uruguayan win. The South Americans come into this fixture on a run of three consecutive victories, while Egypt are without a win in 2018 and are yet to taste victory at a World Cup.
- Uruguay beat Egypt in their only previous encounter, defeating them 2-0 in Alexandria in August 2006.
- The Uruguayans are unbeaten against African opposition at the World Cup (W1, D2), while this will be Egypt’s first meeting with a South American side at the tournament.
- Egypt have never won a game at the World Cup finals (D2, L2).
- This is the Pharaohs’ first World Cup appearance since 1990 and their third overall. They lost 1-0 to England in their last game in the tournament.
- Head coach Hector Cuper is making his World Cup debut as a head coach. His only previous major tournament in charge of Egypt saw them reach the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2017, where they lost 2-1 to Cameroon.
- Goalkeeper and captain Essam El Hadary could become the oldest player in World Cup history (45 years and 151 days).
- Mohamed Salah scored five goals in the third round of African qualifying, more than any other player.
- Salah will celebrate his 26th birthday on the day of the game.
- This is 13th time Uruguay have reached the World Cup finals and it is their third appearance in a row.
- Uruguay won the first ever World Cup in 1930 and also lifted the trophy on their second appearance in 1950.
- They have only progressed past the round of 16 just once at their last six World Cup appearances, when they finished fourth in 2010.
- Uruguay have only lost one of their last eight World Cup group games (W4, D3).
- After winning their opening match at five of their first six World Cup appearances (W5, D1), they have failed to win their first game at the last six tournaments (D3, L3).
- This is Oscar Tabarez’s fourth World Cup appearance as a head coach (1990, 2010, 2014 and 2018); more than any other coach at this year’s tournament.
- The 71-year-old Tabarez will become the second oldest coach in World Cup history, after Otto Rehhagel, who led Greece at the 2010 tournament.
- Edinson Cavani was the top scorer in South American qualifying with 10 goals.
- Luis Suarez has recorded five goals and two assists in eight World Cup games.