Salah makes scoring return but can not stop Russian Federation

Reuters

Russian Federation got its World Cup campaign off to a dream start with a 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia but faces an entirely different beast in the form of Egypt, which should be revitalised by the return of talismanic striker Mohamed Salah.

Competing at a World Cup for the first time in 28 years, Egypt's campaign is effectively over within five days thanks to second-half strikes by Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba, and an Ahmed Fathi own goal.

The Pharaohs were handed a lifeline after Salah was pulled inside Russia's penalty box, forcing the referee to signal a penalty kick for Egypt. Salah stepped up to take it and successfully scored Egypt's first World Cup goal since 1990 to shrink Russia's lead to two goals.

Russia's 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia was the biggest victory by a host nation in an opening game since Italy beat the United States of America 7-1 in 1934. "Very proud. We deserved what happened because we did not concede a single centimetre to them".

While there was another penalty appeal waved away, Egypt struggled to create another chance as the match finished 3-1. No African side has played as many World Cup games without a win.

Salah looked far from the player who scored 44 goals in his debut season for Liverpool and former Chelsea left-back Yuri Zhirkov wasn't afraid to test his fitness with a series of robust challenges.

As Russia, they have failed to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup in three attempts (1994, 2002 and 2014).

"Mo Salah was feeling good to play today".

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Salah is playing for the first time since he injured his shoulder tangling with Sergio Ramos in last month's Champions League final.

Russian Federation - buoyed by their 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia - are hoping to put one foot in the last 16 by securing consecutive wins.

"We are aware that Egypt doesn't always manage what they need to do because they can not be number one at all times, so sometimes they just need to settle for number two".

"It is very hard to know what would have happened (had he not been injured) but we know the quality he has".

"I think that no-one can doubt the importance he has for the national team", said Egypt coach Hector Cuper.

"It is hard to say this but in the World Cup you have to wait until the very last minute, although it's true that our chances are minimal".

The start to the game witnessed an Egyptian side with a lot more attacking intent than we've seen in the previous games, with the team fully aware that the match is a must-win. Salah's penalty opened Egypt's account for 2018.

Going into the World Cup there were fears that hosts Russian Federation would be one of, if not the, worst hosts of a tournament that we'd had as they entered the competition as the lowest ranked side at 70th in the world.

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