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Egypt fans pin hopes on injured Salah for World Cup glory

AFP  |  Cairo 

Encircled by expectant cheers of Egyptian fans, appeared at the Pharaohs' final pre-training session and kindled hopes he can overcome to aid Egypt's first shot at the tournament in nearly three decades.

Liverpool's star striker, who is recovering from a that saw him crash out of the final, strolled around the pitch talking to colleagues and supporters, but did not take part in the team's last late night practice before heading to

Horns blasted, snack-sellers hollered and chants of "Come Salah, Come Salah!" rang through the capital's stadium, crowded by thousands of fans keen to encourage their team ahead of their first appearance since 1990.

Salah, who hit a stunning 44 goals for last season following his move from Roma, is the linchpin of Egyptian hopes in

He has been picked for squad despite having been forced out of the Liverpool's 3-1 final defeat to Real Madrid in tears clutching his left shoulder.

Many of his fans had feared he would miss altogether, but his appearance in has reignited expectations in The Pharaohs' key striker.

"He will participate, God willing, he must," said Seif Ibrahim, a 24-year-old wearing Salah's jersey.

Fans screamed in delight when Salah's name was read out over the loudspeaker, while those able to get to the pitch took selfies with their hero.

He gave fans a sliver of hope when he managed to briefly dribble the ball on the corner of the pitch, before returning to the sidelines.

"I was so sad, but now I'm happy to see him in real life, and he seems to be doing fine even if he isn't actually training with the others," said Nahed Mostafa, 38, who attended the session with her young children.

- 'Historic moment' -

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The Pharaohs, record seven-time African champions, have qualified for for only the third time. They begin their Russian campaign on June 15 against twice former winners

The Egyptian federation said after Salah's that he could be out for three weeks, meaning he would miss their opening Group A match but could then be available against on June 19 and on June 25.

Supporters at the ground, waving the national flag, also yelled enthusiastic approval for the team's other star players -- and

Police in riot gear patrolled the stadium, which was filled to around a quarter of its capacity -- a rare sight at Egypt's highly-restricted grounds.

Authorities imposed a ban on fans attending local matches after a 2012 stadium riot in left 74 people dead. The restriction was partially relaxed earlier this year.

"This is an exceptional event because a whole generation has been excluded from stadiums," said Mostafa Abdallah, a 64-year-old schoolteacher, who wore a checkered shirt and a delighted grin.

"I came for this historic moment, and to admire my country's team.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, June 10 2018. 10:15 IST
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