EGYPT v URUGUAY
Live on BBC One. Friday, June 15. Kick-off 1pm
EGYPT are playing their first World Cup in 28 years but the fitness doubts affecting Mo Salah have cast a cloud over their hopes.
After a nervous wait the prolific striker has now been declared fit to feature in the opener – boss Hector Cuper says he is “almost 100 per cent certain to play” – after damaging shoulder ligaments in Champions League Final action with Liverpool last month.
It seems a big risk from Cuper – surely he'd have been better giving his star striker more recovery time then pitching him in to the games against Russia and Saudi Arabia that are more likely to decide Egypt's fate.
I'm not convinced Salah will be fully fit but his presence will no doubt be a boost to a Pharaohs side that warmed up for the finals by failing to win any of their five friendlies and face a baptism of fire against a streetwise Uruguay outfit who harbour serious ambitions of reaching the semis.
The Uruguayan squad still has seven of the players who helped clinch a fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Cup, including key defender Diego Godin and fearsome strike pair Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.
Manager Oscar Tabarez – now in his 12th year in charge of the South Americans – has freshened up the team with exciting young talent such as Juventus playmaker Rodrigo Bentancur and they can get off to a winning start.
Godin and his superbly marshalled backline are likely to be nightmare opposition for Egypt and Salah faces a tough physical test in his first game back. The Pharaohs will hope the Anfield idol can produce a moment of magic but it's at the other end of the pitch where the class of Cavani and Suarez should settle this one.
Arsenal anchorman Mohamed Elneny will be trying to stem the flow of attacks towards the Egyptians' goal and won't be shy to get stuck in. He's been booked in three of his last four outings for the national team and decent value at 3-1 to be shown a card.
- Uruguay win and under 3.5 goals (21-20, Coral)
- Cavani (41-10, Marathonbet)
- Uruguay 2, Egypt 0 (6-1, BetVictor)
- Uruguay win to nil
- Elneny to be booked
- (7.8-1, bet365)