Egypt manager Hector Cuper says hopes of a strong performance at the Fifa World Cup have not been diminished by Mohamed Salah's injury.
The Liverpool forward, his national team's star player, is in a race to be fit in time for their Group A opener against Uruguay on June 15 after he sustained a shoulder injury in Saturday’s Uefa Champions League final. On Wednesday, the Egyptian Football Association said Salah’s absence “will not exceed” three weeks, although that would appear to rule him out of the Uruguay match.
Contesting a first World Cup since 1990, Egypt then take on hosts Russia, on June 19, before rounding off their group campaign against Saudi Arabia six days later.
Having previously said his team are battling for second spot behind Uruguay, Cuper remains optimistic on their chances of progressing to the knockout stages.
“I still maintain the same hopes and ambitions and I will not lose that," he told the Egyptian FA website. "Injuries happen and are possible in football and that’s why I stress the importance of teamwork despite Salah's significance for the team.
“Our enthusiasm and ambitions are the same; we are confident in our ability to overcome any difficulty. I hoped to achieve positive results in the last friendlies, especially [last week's 1-1 draw] against Kuwait. However, there are other aspects, that might not be visible to the fans and media where we are making progress."
Egypt’s tournament preparations increase on Friday, when they face World Cup counterparts Colombia in Italy, in their penultimate warm-up friendly. They then meet Belgium in Brussels next Wednesday before heading to Russia.
"The most important thing for me now is to end each training session with no injuries," Cuper said. "We are trying to give attention to every detail, even if it is a small one. I hope we don't face any unpleasant event in the coming days - the slightest error is unforgivable right now."
Often criticised for his defensive tactics, Cuper said: “We are trying to find the balance between defence and attack before going to Russia and we have a strong desire and will to achieve that.
"When will Egypt score more than one goal per game? This has happened - we have scored more than once. But the most important thing for me is to win. That’s the school I belong too, doing whatever it takes to achieve the victory. As a coach I give the priority to avoiding defensive mistakes and this might be a different philosophy to Egyptians.
“You won’t find me working on anything except reaching the final objectives required from me and which the contract between me and the Egyptian FA cites. The terms of the contract contained reaching the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup, not the number of goals we should score.”