FIFA World Cup 2018: Russia vs Egypt preview

The Russians cruised in their first match as host of the 2018 World Cup. Now, they face Egypt to open second-round play on Tuesday.

FIFA World Cup 2018: Russia vs Egypt preview
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Saint Petersburg: Hosts Russia will be eyeing to seal their berth for the knockout stage when they face Egypt, who will be bolstered by the return of star forward Mohamed Salah, in their second Group A game here on Tuesday.

Russia will be high on confidence after hammering Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game in Moscow on Thursday. Egypt, on the other hand, suffered a 0-1 loss to Uruguay in the absence of Salah on Friday. 

However, Salah has been declared 100 per cent fit by Egypt's team doctor which will be a major relief for the team management.

Russia currently tops Group A charts on goal difference ahead of Uruguay while Egypt are placed third and another defeat for the North African nation will force them for an early exit from the mega event. 

Egypt are strengthened by Salah's return while Russia will be weakened by the absence of creative midfielder Alan Dzagoev, who suffered injury in the opening game.

"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.

"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," he added.

Denis Cheryshev, who was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia after scoring twice, however feels even if Salah misses Tuesday's game, their task will not be easy.

"If he (Salah) is not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," Cheryshev was quoted as saying by FIFA.com.

The left winger felt that Salah's inclusion in Egypt's playing XI will make the issue interesting.

"If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win," Cheryshev added.

Apart from Cheryshev, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Golovin, Yury Zhirkov, Alexander Samedov will comprise the midfield behind Fedor Smolov. The dynamic midfield has shown in the previous game that it can initiate attacks from any part of the pitch.

Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov and Sergey Ignashevich will form the defence.

Russia have to put the result against Saudi Arabia behind them as the game against Egypt will a totally different story.

With or without Salah, the hosts will have to fight hard to register another victory. 

A win or a draw against Russia will keep Egypt's hopes alive ahead of its final group game against Saudi Arabia on June 25.

Overall, all eyes will be on Salah, who almost single-handedly led Egypt to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years. 

The 26-year-old, who plays as a forward for English club Liverpool, netted five of the team's eight qualifying goals, including an injury-time penalty against Republic of Congo that ensured qualification got Egypt.

Salah will share the attack with Marwan Mohsen and Amr Warda, while the midfield of Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny and Abdalla Said will be tasked with landing balance.

The backline of Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazi, Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Abdel-Shafy had nearly stopped Uruguay before a late set-piece goal blew them away. The four players will have to block the Russian incisive attacks.

Russia full squad:

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge/BEL), Andrey Lunev (Zenit St Petersburg)

Defenders: Vladimir Granat (Rubin Kazan), Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrey Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St Petersburg), Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow)

Midfielders: Yury Gazinsky (Krasnodar), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Erokhin (Zenit St Petersburg), Yury Zhirkov (Zenit St Petersburg), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow, Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal/ESP)

Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar)

Egypt full squad:

Goalkeepers: Essam El Hadary (Al Taawoun/KSA), Mohamed El Shenawy (Al Ahly), Sherif Ekramy (Al Ahly)

Defenders: Ahmed Fathi (Al Ahly), Saad Samir (Al Ahly), Ayman Ashraf (Al Ahly), Ahmed Hegazi (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Ali Gabr (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa/ENG), Mohamed Abdel-Shafi (Al Fateh/KSA), Omar Gaber (Los Angeles/USA), Mahmoud Hamdy (Zamalek)

Midfielders: Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal/ENG), Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), Sam Morsy (Wigan/ENG), Mahmoud Abdel Razek (Al Raed/KSA), Abdallah El Said (Al Ahly), Mahmoud Hassan (Kasimpasa/TUR), Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City/ENG), Amr Warda (Atromitos/GRE), Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim (Al Ittihad/KSA)Forwards: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/ENG), Marwan Mohsen (Al Ahly)

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