Mon 17 Jun by Nick Said
When Egypt begin their quest for the Africa Cup of Nations title on home soil against Zimbabwe on Friday, their chances may well rest on the attacking instincts of Liverpool forward Mo Salah. Egypt have hosted the continental championship on four previous occasions and only once, in 1974 when Zaire were successful, failed to win the trophy. But there is perhaps a more rounded threat from elsewhere on this occasion. The likes of Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria and perhaps even South Africa are all in with a genuine chance of success. Salah is very much the fulcrum of this Egypt side in which he is used more as a striker than his traditional wing role. He is the in-form forward in the team and an excellent outlet for their attacking play. He is possibly at the peak of his powers, finishing as joint top-scorer in the English Premier League and scoring the penalty that set Liverpool on their way in the UEFA Champions League final. It is only really in the last two seasons that he has been counted among Europe’s leading forwards though - before that he was considered as something of a journeyman. Hailing from the small Egyptian village of Nagrig, he made his Egyptian Premier League debut with El Mokawloon in 2010. After two years he had done enough to win a move to Swiss side Basel, where he spent the next two seasons. His goals ratio was modest, but he looked a player with potential and that made Chelsea take a punt on his talent in 2014. But he could not quite settle at Stamford Bridge and was given scant opportunities before loan spells with Fiorentina and Roma. Roma signed him permanently for the 2016-17 season and it was there that he blossomed, scoring 29 goals in two seasons. Liverpool signed him in 2017 and he has been an instant hit at Anfield, becoming part of a feared front three that also comprises Senegal’s Sadio Mane and the Brazilian Roberto Firmino. He has 39 goals from 62 Egypt caps, and five or six more could well see the Pharaohs to another Nations Cup success.