June 23, 2018 / 3:23 PM / 6 months ago

Saudi Arabia and Egypt fight to avoid last place in group

VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia and Egypt will try to avoid finishing last in Group A as they bow out of the World Cup on Monday, a disappointing end to the tournament in particular for Egypt and their usually prolific striker Mohamed Salah.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Saudi Arabia Training - Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don, Russia - June 19, 2018 Saudi Arabia's Yasser Al-Shahrani during training REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Both teams lost their first two games and the only thing they can salvage in the Volgograd Arena is the chance not to finish bottom of their group.

For Saudi Arabia, the match also offers the possibility of a first goal in the tournament in Russia.

Egypt, making their first World Cup appearance since 1990, had been tipped to advance into the knockout rounds after looking strong in the qualifiers.

But they narrowly lost to 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening match, which Salah missed as he recovered from his Champions League final injury with Liverpool. They then went down 3-1 to hosts Russia.

Salah has been pivotal to Egypt, scoring 71 percent of the team’s goals during qualification and claiming their solitary strike of the tournament so far against the Russians.

Despite scoring from the penalty spot, Salah looked like he was still feeling the effects of his injured shoulder in that game.

Egyptian Football Association (EFA) president Hany Abo Rida was quoted by local media as saying that Salah would not be leaving the World Cup early despite his team’s elimination.

While there’s little at stake for the two countries in Monday’s match, Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary will be desperate to be on the field in order to enter the World Cup record books as the oldest player to compete at the finals.

The 45-year-old goalkeeper was left out of the previous two games and coach Hector Cuper must decide whether to hand him the gloves for what will surely be his last appearance at the tournament.

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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