Mohamed Salah finally got off the mark for Egypt at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in their second Group D game against Guinea-Bissau on Saturday night. The Pharaohs had it all to do at the Stade Roumdé Adjia on Saturday evening after losing the opening game to Nigeria in a drab showing.
After an incredible inquest following the disappointing start, the record African Champions were thankful for the talismanic contribution of their captain who made the difference against the Djurtus in Garoua.
Salah popped up with a brilliant volley from Amr El Soleya’s cross in the 69th minute to secure the vital points in a game they largely dominated and hit the post three times. Indeed, the seven-time AFCON champions appeared to be suffering from anxiety and Salah characteristically delivered his first goal in six matches for Egypt.
Since his debut in the competition in 2017, the Liverpool star has now been directly involved in 65% of Egypt’s goals in the Africa Cup of Nations and his latest strike against Guinea-Bissau migh be one of his most important for Carlos Queiroz and company.
Things could have been worse had Mama Balde’s stunning equalizer stood but Egypt now have three points on the board with realistic hopes of qualifying from the group as runners up should they beat Sudan on Matchday 3.
AFCON triumph could help Ballon d’or push
Progress into the knockouts will represent bad news for Liverpool who are missing their star man, but Salah pertinently has an elusive chance at glory on the continental stage.
Despite scoring his fifth AFCON goal from three tournaments for the Pharaohs, Salah has been unable to win a record-extending title and doing so in 2021 will greatly improve his prospects on the world stage.
The 29-year-old is arguably the most in-form player in Europe this season and bringing that stardust to Cameroon will boost his chances of being awarded the best player in the world for 2022. Lionel Messi won the 2021 Ballon d’Or thanks to his incredible goal contributions that propelled Argentina to Copa America triumph and a similar outcome for Salah might make the difference.
In a time where goals and lots of it might not be enough, a continental triumph could be the final piece of the puzzle for a player who is already making his mark as one of the world’s best in the beautiful game of football.
Prior to the start of the tournament, the 29-year-old spoke about his desire to win the continental showpiece with Egypt and his latest strike will surely fuel his hunger to go all the way.
Having opened his account, you can count on Salah to fancy his chances at grabbing a goal or more against Sudan in their final group stage game on Wednesday and perhaps give Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar a run for his money in the Golden Boot race.
Nevertheless, all will depend on Egypt’s collective improvement as the tournament goes on, but Salah is set to remain Egypt’s marksman.