Russia goalkeeper reluctant to talk about Salah's return
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Not everyone is all that excited about Mohamed Salah's possible World Cup debut against Russia on Tuesday.
The Egypt striker, who missed his team's opening match with a shoulder injury, is expected to play in the game against the host nation. But Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev seemed to be unimpressed by questions about Salah.
"I will tell you about my team, as I believe we should pay more attention to the Russian team," Akinfeev said Monday. "It's wrong to single someone out because they have 22 other players (in the Egypt squad)."
Prompted again, Akinfeev was asked if he was personally looking forward to facing Salah at the St. Petersburg Stadium.
With an air of resignation, the veteran keeper was equally dismissive.
"I don't even know how to start responding to your question, frankly," said the 32-year-old Akinfeev, who has made 107 appearances for Russia. "I prefer my team wins tomorrow, that's my response."
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov was more willing to talk, calling Salah "the kind of player who lights up games and tournaments." But the mustachioed coach also sounded circumspect about how ready Salah really is, saying "only the coach and player himself really know."
Salah missed Egypt's opening Group A game, a 1-0 loss to Uruguay, on Friday. The Liverpool striker has not played since injuring his left shoulder following a challenge from Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final on May 26.
Even though Salah scored 44 goals in 51 games for Liverpool in his first season and has 33 in 57 overall for his national team, Cherchesov insisted he knows how to stop Salah and said a plan is in place.
"Of course he stands out, but obviously we're not up against a single player," Cherchesov said. "I believe in my players and I will give you a simple answer to your question: We are ready to do this and we will do this."
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire