African representation at the Russia 2018 World Cup got off to an underwhelming start on Friday, as seven-time African champions Egypt lost to South American powerhouse Uruguay.

Much of the pre-match talk had been dominated by the availability or otherwise of Egypt’s star forward Mohammed Salah, following a shoulder injury he sustained in Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid last month.

Coach Hector Cuper had claimed just on Thursday that the winger was “almost 100 percent fit”; when the team list was released on Friday, however, Salah could only make the substitutes’ bench.

As expected, Egypt were spineless in attack without him; and after withstanding bouts upon bouts of attack by Uruguay — goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawi putting up a man-of-the-match performance — Egypt finally caved in to a Jose Gimenez header in the very final minute of regulation time.

Egypt now have a mountain to climb and must avoid defeat in their next clash against hosts Russia to avoid an early exit from the tournament.

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