The host nation’s manager Stanislav Cherchesov insists all will be well, even if Salah does play.“We are studying Egypt and we should be able to exploit their weaknesses,’ said Cherchesov said yesterday. “I have a simple answer: We are ready to stop Salah and we will do this.”
It is hard to overstate how utterly transformed the national mood has been since the delirium of the 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia.Pessimism prevailed beforehand, yet everyone wants a flavour of the tournament amid the early buoyancy.The National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine is screening the World Cup, despite the fact that the host nation has annexed Crimea, which was governed from Kiev.
And the Tass news agency has reported that an otter from Socho Zoo — ‘Harry’ — predicted last week’s opening win by selecting a ball with a Russian flag draped across it.The otter in question has backed up his bold first call by indicating that Egypt will be beaten, too, although it has not passed without attention that a piglet, Boris, suggests the game might be drawn.
That would also probably be fine for the Russians since their goal difference is overwhelming. The hosts look and sound like a group reborn by their win in Moscow.
‘Nothing should stand between us and beautiful football,’ said veteran goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev. ‘A good mood brings good results. We’re joking with each other. We are a little bit more relaxed.’
Cherchesov stretched the bounds of credibility when he claimed that he would like Salah to play.‘God willing, he’ll be fit and entertain the fans. He’s the kind of player who lights up games and tournaments like this,’ he said.But he is in a very small Russian minority. Some media here are predicting that Salah will play from the start tonight, yet will try to avoid direct physical challenges with opponents.