The Pharaohs had already exited the tournament after two losses in their first two matches, but they will be disappointed at leaving completely empty handed. Many tipped them to trouble Uruguay for topping the group, but they have simply not been able to live up to the expectations heaped on them. Uruguay to reach the quarter-finals is 19/10.
Mo Salah has scored two goals in as many games at this tournament but has had a huge cloud hanging over his head for political reasons as opposed to football. Hector Cuper did not risk him for the first game against Uruguay and a 90th minute header from Jose Gimenez was a blow from which Egypt would ultimately fail to recover.
Salah is as much a talisman for his country as he is Liverpool and it is very telling of the forward’s abilities that despite not being approaching full fitness he has scored twice. Had he not been taken out by the football equivalent of an assassination in Kiev by Sergio Ramos, you do wonder how much further into the tournament the Egyptians could have gone. Uruguay to reach the semi-finals is 13/2.
From the moment Salah arrived in Russia, he has been pestered and his status as one of the biggest names in world football has very much been confirmed by what has happened to him. He has been getting dragged away for photoshoots by Chechen leaders and he is in the midst of a crisis as he and his agent become increasingly embroiled in disputes with the Egyptian Football Association.
It’s safe to say that the Egyptian King has not had the tournament that he would have hoped. Whilst the Egyptians were never going to trouble the Jules Rimet trophy, many people (myself included) fancied them to reach the knockout phases and for Salah to be influential in that cause.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Mo simply wasn’t at full fitness. Cuper chose to not play him in that opening game on the second day of the tournament as he didn’t wish to risk Salah. From a Liverpool perspective I admire and respect that but it wasn’t a nice sight to see him cut a disconsolate figure on the bench when that last minute header went in.
But when it’s all said and done, Salah has scored two in two. He has done his bit but his team mates have let him down. The defence in the 3-1 loss to Russia for example was particularly poor. Salah can only do so much – if he isn’t backed up by his team mates then that is out of his hands completely.
His goal in the final game against Saudi Arabia was vintage Mo – he ran off his defender onto a ball over the top into space. His first touch was an exquisite chest down into space and his second an impish lob over the keeper and into the net. We’ve seen it several times over the last twelve months. Salah would also miss a very good chance as he broke through one on one but clipped his shot wide of the post. It was reminiscent of his inexplicable miss in the late season 0-0 draw at home to Stoke City.
Indeed it would prove to be a game of two halves for him as Egypt were hemmed in by a bold and attacking Saudi Arabian team in the second half and the dam broke in the 90th minute to hand the Pharaohs a third loss from three. In terms of enhancing his status as a global footballing icon, there has been no harm to Salah’s reputation whatsoever.
But it must be said, there has been a cloud hanging directly above the Egyptian camp all tournament. The politics has overtaken the sport as always seems to happen and the relatively shy and quiet Salah has been thrust into the limelight by some jabroni politician who is trying to make a better name for himself. The Egyptian FA have allowed this to happen unchecked and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Salah does pack in international football in the coming weeks.
It’s a shame this has happened to him because after the season he has had, he deserved to take the World Cup by storm. Down to injury and lack of fitness he hasn’t quite managed to do this but he has not been protected by the governing body. Mo Salah the footballer has been talked about less than Mo Salah the political pawn. And that is everything that is wrong with both football and politics in a nutshell.