Mohamed Salah misses Egypt's World Cup opener due to shoulder injury

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Egypt’s <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/380927/" data-ylk="slk:Mohamed Salah">Mohamed Salah</a>, center, waves to supporters as he arrives for the group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Yekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Friday, June 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, center, waves to supporters as he arrives for the group A match between Egypt and Uruguay at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Yekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Friday, June 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Mohamed Salah did not play in Egypt’s World Cup-opening 1-0 loss to Uruguay after failing to sufficiently recover from a shoulder injury.

Salah was named on the bench, meaning he was technically available as a substitute, as all 12 non-starters are. But with the game at 0-0 for much of the second half, Egypt manager Hector Cuper chose to use his three substitutions on other players. Uruguay then won the game in the 90th minute.

One day earlier, Cuper had said Salah was ready to go. “I can almost assure you, 100 percent, he’ll play,” the Argentinian manager said Thursday.

When Salah was named on the bench, the assumption was that he would come off it at some point in the second half. But Cuper decided otherwise.

Salah’s injury and recovery

Salah sustained the shoulder injury exactly 20 days ago, in the Champions League final on May 26. He was dragged to the turf by Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, and immediately doubled over in pain. He exited the match in tears.

The star winger was in a sling after Liverpool’s 3-1 loss, and Egyptian doctors expressed optimism that Salah would be fit for Russia. Salah said the following day that he was confident he’d be at the World Cup. And he is – he was named in Egypt’s 23-man squad without much hesitation.

But there was only so much he could do. The injury, to his right shoulder joint, was always going to be a tricky one to recover from in less than three weeks. And Salah appears to have just barely lost his race against time.

Egypt’s lineup, Cuper’s decision

Egypt started with Amr Warda, Abdallah El Said and Mahmoud “Trezeguet” behind striker Marwan Mohsen in Salah’s absence.

The plan appeared to have worked. Egypt was defensively sound. It was holding Uruguay in check.

And Cuper’s decision to leave Salah on the bench, rather than bring him on as a sub, was surely influenced by the scoreline. A draw would have been an outstanding result for the Egyptians. The idea, presumably, was that Salah would then have been fit to start against Russia, where a win would put the Pharaohs in position to advance.

But with Russia beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 on Thursday, Jose Maria Gimenez’s later winner put the Egyptians in a hole in Group A.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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