Egyptian fans and teammates of Mohamed Salah have been praying and crossing their fingers ever since his heartbreaking injury in the Champions League Final on May 26. Will the star footballer recover in time for the opening matches of the World Cup?
Well, according to Salah's most recent comments, it looks like he just might.
"Now I'm better," Salah told Spanish daily Marca in an interview published on Saturday. "I hope to play the first game against Uruguay, but that will depend on how I feel when it approaches."
To Salah, his Egyptian teammates and Egyptian fans, making it to the World Cup is a huge deal. Attempting to explain this to a European audience, Salah said: "It's the first time in 28 years that we qualified."
"It was not normal because we won the African Cup seven times, and we were champions in 2006, 2008 and 2010. It was common to win the African Cup, but we didn't qualify for the World Cup. And it was something we all said: 'wow, we have to do it, we have to do it.' We had not achieved it for a long time and it was something very special," the footballer said.
Salah explained that Egypt's first objective in the international competition is to perform well in its first matches and qualify for the next round. As for himself, he aims to support his team the best he can.
"We are strong as a group, we all have the same goal, to help the team win the game, that is the most important thing. But I can't say only one strong point, the main one is that we all play together," he said.
During the Champions League final in Ukraine at the end of last month, Salah – who plays with Liverpool FC – left the field in tears. In the games 31st minute, he fell heavily under a controversial challenge by Real Madrid captain and defender Sergio Ramos.
Sarah, 25, suffered ligament damage in his shoulder, according to the Egyptian Football Association, drawing fears that he wouldn't recover in time for the World Cup in Russia. In the end, Liverpool ended up losing the match against Real Madrid, with a final score of 3-1.
"When I fell to the ground, I had a mixture of physical pain and a lot of worry. Also anger and sadness for not being able to continue playing the Champions League final. Moments later, I also thought about the possibility of not playing in the World Cup and that was a devastating thought," Salah told Marca.
Many fans criticized Ramos, blaming him for the injury. Some even argued that he intentionally maneuvered to knock Salah out of the game.
As for Salah, he's now just doing his best to recover as quickly as possible, so he can help his teammates "make history."
"The pressure was to qualify for the World Cup. Of course, someone can now say 'ok, we've qualified, that's it'. But for me it's not like that, we want to make history, achieve something different," Salah said. "In my head the pressure is to achieve something different from what we have done."
To Salah, the goal now is winning, "not just going there, three games and thank you very much," he explained. "That doesn't go through my head."
Egypt is slated to face-off against Uruguay on Friday, June 15. Currently, FIFA ranks Uruguay as 14th globally, and Egypt as 45th.