Egypt return to World Cup action for the first time since 1990 with a difficult opening Group A fixture against Uruguay, and with the fitness of star man Mohamed Salah still in doubt.
Salah's participation at the tournament was plunged into uncertainty when he suffered a shoulder injury in a challenge with Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos during Liverpool's Champions League final defeat last month.
The talismanic forward, who scored 44 goals in all competitions in an incredible debut season at Anfield, has insisted he will be fit for Friday's clash in Yekaterinburg.
However, head coach Hector Cuper, leading a side at a World Cup for the first time, says there is more to a team that reached the final of last year's Africa Cup of Nations than just Salah.
"We're not Mohamed Salah's national team, this team has many players who cooperate with each other to reach the best results," Cuper told MBC Masr TV.
"Egypt is lucky that this generation has one of the best players in the world but our tactics don't solely revolve around him."
Uruguay's preparation for the tournament has been comparatively free of drama, and La Celeste coasted to a 3-0 win over Uzbekistan in their warm-up game.
There is pressure on Oscar Tabarez, preparing to coach in a World Cup for the fourth time, and his Uruguay side, who are regarded as favourites for a group also featuring hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Uruguay disappointed in being knocked out in the last 16 in 2014 after reaching the semi-finals in 2010, and despite their favourable group, captain Diego Godin is not looking beyond their opening test.
Speaking on their departure from Montevideo, Godin said: "Although we, like the whole of the Uruguayan people, are dreaming big, the main challenge facing us is winning the game against Egypt; this is what's most important to us and is what is on our minds."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Egypt – Mohamed Salah
Will he? Won't he? Egypt's ability to progress to the knockout rounds largely hinges on the fitness of Salah and, if he does play, there will be severe scrutiny of his performance and whether he looks anything like the same player who took the Premier League and Champions League by storm this past season.
Uruguay – Lucas Torreira
Arsenal are rumoured to be in talks to sign Sampdoria midfielder Torreira, who will be key to both Uruguay's attacking play and to stopping Egypt.
Torreira only has three caps to his name but, after an impressive season for Samp in which he scored four Serie A goals, will likely be looked upon to break up play in the midfield and dictate things for Uruguay on their forays forward.
KEY OPTA STATS:
- Uruguay are unbeaten against African opposition at the World Cup (W1 D2).
- Egypt are so far winless at the World Cup, drawing two and losing two of their four games. In fact, no African team has played as many games in the competition without winning a single one.
- Uruguay have lost only one of their last eight World Cup group games (W4 D3), against Costa Rica in 2014 (1-3). However, they are winless in their last six opening games (D3 L3), their last victory coming in 1970 (2-0 v Israel).
- Mohamed Salah scored more goals than any other player in 2018 African World Cup qualifying (Third Round), netting five of Egypt’s eight goals overall.
- Luis Suarez has been directly involved in seven of Uruguay's last 13 goals at the World Cup (5 goals, 2 assists).
|Mourinho visits Istanbul Basaksehir before Burnley game|
|Iniesta hails ´worldwide sports legend´ Alonso|
|Onus on Ozil to rise above criticism, says ex-Arsenal star Wright|
|Lahm to head Euro 2024 if Germany wins bid|
|Tennis Australia ´extremely disappointed´ with Davis Cup revamp|
|Snedeker shoots 59 at Wyndham, after bogeying his first hole!|
|Lukaku hints at Belgium retirement after Euro 2020|
|Pellegrini rules out West Ham approach for Toure|
|Association of Spanish Footballers fumes at LaLiga´s US agreement|
|Seibold and Bennett hit out at media speculation|
|Cipriani ´truly sorry´ after pleading guilty to common assault|
|Man City´s Roberts makes Girona loan move|
|Davis Cup revamp passed by two-thirds majority vote|
|Pochettino ready to tackle Man City after Wembley NFL|
|Emery ends Arsenal goalkeeper debate with Cech assurance|
|Shastri: India happy to face Stokes in Nottingham|
|Etzebeth returns for Springboks, Pumas include Figallo|
|Two Serie A matches postponed after Genoa bridge collapse|
|Barrett tight-lipped over Manly future due to ´legal reasons´|
|N´Zonzi is better than Malcom - Monchi takes aim at Barca star|
|Sainz to replace Alonso at McLaren|
|Bayliss encourages Stokes to make public apology|
|Oates hat-trick boosts Broncos´ play-off ambitions|
|Emery needs four transfer windows to impact Arsenal – Wright|
|Spain´s LaLiga plans to play regular-season game in U.S.|
|´Dream come true´ for Robertson to earn Bledisloe Cup start|
|LaLiga match set for USA following groundbreaking Relevent deal|
|FIFA rankings: France number one, Croatia and England soar, Germany and Argentina plummet|
|Hansen hails ´big leader´ Whitelock ahead of 100th cap|
|Cipriani pleads guilty to common assault and resisting arrest|
|PSG snap up Kehrer from Schalke|
|Maitland-Niles facing two months out with broken leg|
|Walker backs City squad strength to overcome De Bruyne blow|
|Thomas & Froome skip Vuelta, named in Tour of Britain squad|
|Thurston rules out retirement U-turn|
|Pumas look to build on Jaguares progress in Rugby Championship|
|Super Cup glory will make Atletico strong - Simeone|
|Rugby Championship 2018: True status of Erasmus´ Springboks rebuild to be discovered|
|LaLiga 2018-19: Coutinho ready to be Barca´s next Brazilian superstar|
|Serie A 2018-19: Can Napoli, Roma, Inter or AC Milan overhaul Juventus?|
|Braves survive skirmish, loss of Acuna to top Marlins|
|Robertson handed surprise start, Hodge gets nod for Bledisloe opener|
|MLS Review: Wayne´s World as Rooney inspires DC United, LAFC win|
|Djokovic and Dimitrov survive but Zverev loses in Cincinnati|
|Rain halts Halep as Muguruza´s defence ends and Wozniacki retires|
|Ozil´s racism claims nonsense, says Kroos|
|Malcom lost for words after Camp Nou bow alongside Messi|
|Injured Fowler withdraws from play-off opening Northern Trust|
|Marcelo happy with Madrid squad amid transfer talk|
|Foles isn´t worried about Brady´s handshake snub|
|Eli Manning on Jalen Ramsey´s comments: ´Who?´|
|Cerezo: Atletico´s objective is to reach Champions League final|
|Judge´s recovery taking longer than expected|
|Ronaldo in the past as Casemiro backs Lopetegui after Madrid loss|
|With our ´cojones´ Atletico can beat anyone – Costa revels in Super Cup glory|
|Super Cup loss doesn´t change Real Madrid transfer policy, says Lopetegui|
|Griezmann: Super Cup triumph justifies staying at Atletico|
|Valverde defends Suarez performances|
|Simeone´s eclipses Aragones as Atletico´s top coach with seventh title|
|Rockets GM: LeBron James is ´the greatest ever´|
|Salihamidzic, Kovac not standing in way of Rudy exit|
|Jaguars DB Ramsey calls Bills QB Allen ´trash´|
|Real Madrid 2 Atletico Madrid 4 (after extra time): Saul stunner seals Super Cup glory|
|Ex-India Test captain Wadekar dies aged 77|
|Gundogan ready to step up in absence of injured De Bruyne|
|Djokovic overcomes illness to see off Mannarino|
|Diego Costa nets fastest UEFA Super Cup goal ever|
|Everton feared missing out on Mina after World Cup strike|
|Barcelona 3 Boca Juniors 0: Messi, Malcom net as Barca win Joan Gamper Trophy|
|All Blacks stick with Barrett as Mo´unga misses out altogether|