AFCON: Can Mo Salah can single-handedly win it for Egypt?
Mohamed Salah heads to AFCON as the star of the tournament and arguably the best player in the world… the Liverpool man is at the peak of his powers and CAN lead Egypt to glory for the first time in over a decade
- Mo Salah is seen as the undisputed best player at the Africa Cup of Nations
- The Egyptian has been setting even greater standards at Liverpool this season
- As he awaits a new Anfield deal, many in football consider him the world’s best
- Sportsmail takes a look at whether he can finally clinch international glory
It is a pivotal month for Mohamed Salah.
While much of the talk swirling around him centres around whether Liverpool will pull out all the stops to keep him at Anfield and make him the best paid star in the club’s illustrious history, Salah has more pressing things on his mind.
The jewel of Egypt and arguably the most famous and high profile footballer across all of Africa has international glory in his sights.
Salah has touched down in Cameroon and is bidding to finally lift a trophy with his nation and be crowned an Africa Cup of Nations champion.
The star man for the Pharaohs – and of the whole tournament – Liverpool’s in-form forward is heads and shoulders above the others at the top of the Premier League scoring charts with 16 goals, and Egypt have every chance of winning AFCON with him in their side.
Sportsmail takes a closer look at Salah’s impact for Egypt and asks whether he can end his country’s 12-year wait for glory.
The weight of a nation is on the shoulders of Mo Salah as Egypt fans now dare to dream
Even if Salah is not on top form, his presence will strike fear into Egypt’s opponents and they will be focused on shackling him in most games.
Salah has an incredible 45 goals in just 74 caps and will be looking to make strides towards more records for his country.
Egypt have won this competition seven times, but not since 2010, and this is another opportunity for Salah to get his hands on further silverware.
He has won the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool in recent seasons, but is yet to lift a trophy in international football.
Salah is the driving force for his side and enters AFCON as the world’s most in-form star
Unlike his weekly remit at Anfield, where Salah can occasionally go under the radar before popping up with a match-winning goal or assist, he will need to be on top of things constantly with Egypt.
Both team-mates and fans alike revere Salah as a footballing god, meaning his influence takes on a whole new dimension of importance.
A lukewarm performance with minimal input won’t really cut it for Salah or the Pharaohs, who need him to set an example every time he steps onto the field, especially with a gulf in quality around him.
Salah is widely recognised as one of the most formidable and clinical forwards on the planet, and Egypt boss Carlos Queiroz is acutely aware of this.
The Portuguese manager, it should be added, knows all about working with the biggest names in the game.
During his tenure with Manchester United and the Portugal national side, Queiroz took great care in helping cultivate and mature a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
Carlos Queiroz is charged with getting the best out of Salah, as he did with Cristiano Ronaldo
At 68, Queiroz has vast experience and it will not be lost on him that this is perhaps the most critical phase of Salah’s career, regarding potential silverware with the national team.
Salah will need to lean upon his experienced manager and be given support and guidance out in Cameroon, despite his status.
Having Salah in your ranks certainly does something for a team’s standing, with Egypt heading into the tournament as third favourites with the bookmakers.
Holders Algeria are the side most backed to go on and reclaim the prize, while Senegal currently sit as second favourites ahead of Egypt.
For Salah, this can provide yet more motivation, while perhaps also easing the pressure on his shoulders somewhat.
Egypt have a rich history of AFCON success meaning the pressure is well and truly on
One thing is for certain though, Egypt will never be seen as ‘dark horses’ in this competition.
Other teams may be slightly ahead of them in terms of all-round quality throughout the XI, but Egypt have a rich history when it comes to the AFCON trophy. With that comes plenty of expectation.
The Pharaohs have historically been the most successful team at the Africa Cup of Nations – winning the trophy seven times, including three times in a row in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
The thing with Salah is, he always delivers.
His consistency for Liverpool over the past four years has been nothing short of jaw-dropping, but the No 10 also brings his A-game on the regular for the national team.
With Salah the incidents are never isolated, or a mere flash in the pan.
Cast your minds back to 2017, as the Liverpool man sparked jubilation in his homeland by booking Egypt’s place at the World Cup.
Salah scored a 95th-minute penalty to down Congo 2-1, shortly before fans inside the stadium raced onto the streets in scenes of sheer joy and jubilation.
After a summer break, Salah has been firing on all cylinders for club and country this season
It was like something straight from a Hollywood script. Cameras flashes and horns sounded late into the night. Salah has continued his trajectory for the national side ever since.
The World Cup came and went with Salah and his team-mates struggling, but this time around – with even more experience – AFCON is another matter entirely.
Salah has already benefitted from having a summer without commitments, prior to the season getting underway.
Many pundits have pointed to this as the reason why the forward is appearing so fresh, energetic and recharged. Not having to toil for his country during the summer months may now prove very valuable in January.
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