WORLD CUP DIARY: A strange tale of superstition in today’s journal
The World Cup kick-offs on Thursday and already Zlatan Ibrahimovic has told his former Sweden teammates they should be on the beach and not bothering with the football.
TimesLIVE brings you news from Egypt‚ France and Nigeria‚ as well as a strange tale of superstition in today’s World Cup diary.
The news Egypt have been waiting for was revealed today when star striker Mohamed Salah was passed fit to play against Uruguay on Friday‚ though coach Hector Cuper has left the ball in the court of the forward as to whether he takes to the pitch.
The Liverpool striker‚ who scored 44 goals in 52 games for The Reds in all competitions last season‚ was a major doubt for the game after injuring his shoulder in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid last month.
But after intensive physiotherapy‚ and even more intensive speculation over whether he will be fit for the opening game‚ Pharaohs fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
"I can almost 100 percent say he will play‚ save for any unforeseen factors at the last minute‚" Cuper said.
"We're trying to make him feel confident. The doctors are giving him the options to play or not. I know Salah very well‚ he's not fearful‚ we always know we're running a risk when playing a match‚ that's something we can't hide.
ZLATAN BEING ZLATAN
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has told the Sweden players they should simply enjoy themselves in Russia because without him in the squad‚ they have no how of winning the World Cup anyway.
The LA Galaxy forward was annoyed at not being selected for the tournament‚ hoping to add to his 116 caps‚ and with typical bravado says that move ended any hopes Sweden had of lifting the trophy.
"I think Sweden‚ they have less pressure when I'm not there‚ because when I'm there we're supposed to win everything. Just enjoy. No pressure‚ because I'm not there‚" Ibrahimovic said.
Sweden are in Group F with world champions Germany‚ Mexico and South Korea.
WIN AT ALL COSTS
Nigeria and Chelsea forward Victor Moses has spoken of the importance of his side making a positive start to their World Cup campaign against Croatia on Saturday with fixtures against tricky Iceland and giants Argentina to come.
“This game is very important to us because it is very important to start winning‚ good result‚” Moses told reporters.
“You [Croatia] have a particularly strong line and attack‚ the most important for us is to be concentrated‚ then we can beat Croatia.
“The most important thing is not to lose this first game because they are sometimes the most important to qualify from the group. Croatia can beat anyone‚ but Nigeria can beat Croatia. We’ll have to make it as a team.”
FORMIDABLE FRENCH FORWARDS
France’s forward line looks to be the envy of the 32 teams at the World Cup with coach Didier Deschamps having to make some tough choices on who to leave out for their opener against Australia on Saturday.
It looks as though Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud will be the one to sit on the bench‚ which means the exciting trio of Kylian Mbappe (19)‚ Ousmane Dembele (21) and Antoine Griezmann (27) will be the ones to terrorise the Aussies.
"We are three players who appreciate each other. We put our egos on the side‚" Mbappe told reporters.
"There are not a lot of teams who have a better attacking lineup than us."
France have quality‚ but also a young squad. Should Corentin Tolisso start and Blaise Matuidi remain on the bench‚ it will be the youngest French side to start a World Cup since 1930.
"It can be a strength. We can bring some carefreeness‚ some joie de vivre (joy of living) in a competition where pressure is always weighing on the squad‚" Mbappe said.
SOMETHING SMELLS WRONG …
Players the world over have certain superstitions ahead of matches‚ but Julian Draxler might be up there with the most unusual.
The Paris St Germain midfielder‚ who won the World Cup with Germany four years ago and is in their squad again‚ says that in order to get himself in the zone ahead of a match he puts on … perfume.
“Sometimes my teammates ask me if I’m not right in the head‚” he told Marca.
“Every player has a ritual before a match and I usually hold my bag in my locker and I throw on two or three sprays of perfume.
“It gives me a feeling of happiness.”