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Salah set to start against Saudi Arabia as Egypt target win

Mohamed Salah trains with the Egypt team in Volgograd © AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI

VOLGOGRAD, Russian Federation, Jun 24Mohamed Salah looks likely to start against Saudi Arabia in Volgograd on Monday as Egypt go in search of a first-ever World Cup win in a battle to avoid finishing bottom of Group A.

But Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary may have to wait for an appearance off the bench to set a record as the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup.

Egypt coach Hector Cuper said he would not tinker greatly with the starting XI that were dumped out of the tournament 3-1 by hosts Russia on Tuesday.

“The manager needs a reason to make changes,” Cuper told reporters before Salah took part in a full training session at the Volgograd Arena. “We are not going to change our style.”

An appearance for El Hadary would smash the age record set by Faryd Mondragon in Brazil four years ago.

The Colombia goalkeeper was 43 years and three days old when he played against Japan in a 4-1 group stage victory in Cuiaba.

But the 158-capped El Hadary said he did not know if he would play.

“I will be very happy if I participate and set the record,” he said. “But it is not certain.”

Cuper made it clear that he considered it important for Egypt’s future to register a first-ever win at a World Cup and he would field his strongest side.

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“We must bow out in style,” he said.

Egyptian Football Association president Hany Abo Rida earlier denied media reports Liverpool had put pressure on them to leave out Salah, who scored 44 goals for the English Premier League club last season.

“No, we did not receive anything from Liverpool,” he told AFP.

“When the player is with the national team, it is for us to decide,” he said in Grozny, Chechnya, before the team travelled to Volgograd.

Salah was slammed to the turf by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final on May 26 in Kiev, causing a painful shoulder injury.

The talisman and national hero faced a race against time to be fit for the World Cup, sitting out the opening defeat against Uruguay.

He started and scored a late penalty in the 3-1 defeat to Russia but looked a shadow of the player who starred for Liverpool.

Russia and Uruguay have already qualified for the knockouts and will kick off their battle for top spot in Group A in Samara at 1400 GMT, the same time as the Saudi-Egypt match.

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