World Cup: Salah returns but Egypt lose 3-1
Egypt lost to World Cup hosts Russia on Tuesday, all but dashing The Pharaohs' hopes of reaching the knockout stages.
The Russians kept up their free-scoring ways to move to the brink of a second round place with a 3-1 win at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday.
Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah, playing for the first time since injuring his shoulder in last month's Champions League final, scored Egypt's first World Cup goal in 28 years from a 73rd minute penalty awarded after a review by the video assistant referee.
Salah's goal cut the deficit to 3-1, but it wasn't enough to spark an Egyptian comeback.
Russia's place in the knockout stages will be secured on Wednesday if Uruguay avoid defeat against Saudi Arabia in the next Group A game.
Hector Cuper's Egyptian side were given a confidence boost by the return of Salah, but the forward appeared a long way short of match fitness and made little impact in what was a tight first half.
Two minutes after the break disaster struck as Egypt midfielder Ahmed Fathi shanked the ball into his own net from a speculative Russian cross.
Remarkably, it was the fifth own goal of the tournament so far. The record amount is six, in 1998.
It was followed by two goals in a three-minute spell from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba around the hour mark as Russia took their tournament goal tally to eight in two games.
Egypt still have a slender chance of proceeding to the next round, but this chance depends on Saudi Arabia, who were hammered 5-0 by Russia, beating Uruguay when the teams meet on Wednesday. Egypt would then have to beat the Saudis and hope that Uruguay lose to Russia in the final round. Even then, they would need a higher goal differential than Saudi Arabia and Uruguay to qualify as second in the group.
"We had a good first half, then we had 10-15 really bad minutes and that's why we lost," said Cuper, who immediately faced questions over his future.
"Whether I should stay or not does not depend on me and we still have another match. In a World Cup you have to wait till the very last minute," he added after the game.
Cuper bemoaned Salah's absence from Egypt's World Cup preparations because of injury.
Salah looked to be protecting his shoulder as he stayed away from physical contact and was not required to track back, leaving Egypt's midfield often overwhelmed at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
"Nobody can argue about Salah's importance to the team and we've been worried since he got injured and it would have been preferable to have had him at our training camp in the build-up to the tournament," said Cuper.
"But obviously we couldn't do that, as the priority was to get him fit again."
With Egypt's loss, Arab teams are left with zero points from five games. Saudi Arabia lost its opening game to Russia 5-0. Tunisia lost 2-1 to England on Wednesday after an injury time header from Harry Kane. Morocco was beaten by Iran from a late own goal, and Egypt lost its opener 1-0 to Uruguay, also by a late header.