YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Mohamed Salah jogged around the practice field here Thursday afternoon, laughing and joking alongside his Egypt teammates as they went through their final workout before their first match of the World Cup.
It was an unremarkable scene and, still, an important one. Salah, one of world soccer’s breakout stars this season, has been nursing a shoulder injury since May 26, when an awkward fall while playing for Liverpool forced him out of the Champions League final. Thursday’s run-through with Egypt was further evidence that he would be fit to play for the Pharoahs on Friday night against Uruguay.
Héctor Cúper, the coach of Egypt, had insisted as much during a news conference moments before his team took the field for training. Cúper said Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool this season, had reacted well to treatment and therapy, which he was receiving three times a day since the injury.
Team doctors said they would continue to monitor Salah into Friday morning, and the decision to play against the Uruguay — a team with a reputation for rugged defending — would ultimately be his.
But Cúper said, “I can almost assure you 100 percent he will play.”
The prospect that Salah, 25, could miss Egypt’s first trip to the World Cup in 28 years had dismayed Egyptian fans and neutral admirers alike. His combination of energy, ingenuity and ruthlessness made for scintillating viewing throughout the Premier League season, after which he was named the league’s player of the year.
The World Cup will be his first extended appearance on the international soccer stage, and Cúper was asked Thursday whether he thought Salah could establish himself among the world’s top scorers during the tournament.
“He’s shown he has great personality, talent, character, so why not?” Cúper said.
Egypt was lucky to draw into one of the tournament’s weaker groups — alongside Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay — and the team’s captain, Essam El-Hadary, 45, reminded reporters that there was a full, capable team, aside from Salah, ready to go.
“We are 23 players and we are all ready to play well,” said El-Hadary, who would become the oldest player to appear at a World Cup if he takes the field this month. “We will live up to expectations, with god’s help.”
But the team most likely would struggle without Salah, its one true star, and the focus therefore has remained on him.
As the news conference on Thursday wound to a close, a Russian journalist pulled a pair of traditional Russian felt boots, called valenki, from a plastic bag and asked that they be passed to Salah. He joked that the player could wear them if the weather in Russia got too cold.
“The weather is fine,” Cúper deadpanned. “The temperature is fine.”