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Salah, Egypt all but out of the World Cup as Russians ride second-half blitz to victory

It looks like one of the world’s best players will be leaving the World Cup early.

Mohamed Salah returned from a shoulder injury suffered in the Champions League final, but his second-half penalty was not enough to help Egypt avoid a 3-1 loss to host nation Russia.

The use of Video Assistant Referee helped award Salah a penalty kick in the second half that he drew. The referee initially whistled for a free kick just at the top of the box, but replay showed Salah was still in the process of being dragged down by the arm into the penalty area.

Salah buried his kick over Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev with authority:

Russia scored all three of its goals within the first 17 minutes of the second half, including a nice bit of link-up play on the second that led to Denis Cheryshev’s third goal of the tournament, tying him with Cristiano Ronaldo for the lead:

As a result, the Russians all but clinched their first spot in the knockout stages since 1986, when they were the Soviet Union. A lot of people thought they stood little chance of getting out of the group stage, but the team has scored eight goals and conceded only one, which might be more important since there were big questions surrounding the team’s back line heading into the competition.

The scenes in Saint Petersburg were remarkable, and Russia might be the latest team to receive the home soil boost at a World Cup.

Salah looked off the pace

Salah hadn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury during the Champions League final over three weeks ago, so it’s no surprise he was a step below the form that landed him the Premier League Player of the Year award this past season. He was hardly bad, there were just several instances in which his touch let him down or he got his own feet tangled. The service into him wasn’t spectacular, either. Egypt essentially boomed the ball in his direction every chance it got in the first half, instead of settling and trying to break effectively on the counter. As a result, soccer fans are effectively deprived of Salah’s brilliance the rest of the World Cup.

(Getty)

Egypt isn’t out … yet

We use the term “effectively” because Egypt hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from Group A, but it’s a near certainty. The Pharaohs would need Saudi Arabia to pull off a massive upset of Uruguay on Wednesday, and then they would need Uruguay to lose again to Russia on the final matchday while they beat Saudi Arabia themselves by a ton of goals. That would leave all three teams level on three points, with goal differential determining the tiebreaker. To be frank, the likelihood of each result happening is in order of difficulty, but also descending order. So if Uruguay loses to the Saudis, things might get weird. Unfortunately for Egypt, they most likely won’t.

Yet another own goal

Russia’s first goal came off Egyptian defender Ahmed Fathi, who felt Russian striker Artem Dzyuba was too close for comfort to not play the ball. In any event, it’s the fifth own goal of the World Cup so far. For reference’s sake, the record for an overall World Cup is six, set in France ’98. Technically, own goals are in the lead for the Golden Boot, if you want to look at it that way.

Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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