Africa the next frontier for trophy hunter SalahTue, 09 Jan 2024 04:10:51 GMT

Serial goal scorer Mohamed Salah has conquered the world, Europe and England with Liverpool. Now he dreams of leading Egypt to African glory.He has come agonisingly close twice with his country, being part of the teams that lost the 2017 and 2022 Africa Cup of Nations finals to Cameroon and Senegal respectively.In between reaching those title deciders, hosts Egypt suffered a humiliating last-16 loss to outsiders South Africa that left a 70,000 Cairo crowd speechless.Egypt are among the favourites for the 2024 title in the Ivory Coast as they seek a record-extending eighth title in the premier African sporting event.Drawn with Ghana, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B, it is widely expected that Egypt will finish first and qualify for the round of 16.But captain Salah and his Pharaohs teammates want more. Much more. They want to play in the February 11 final at the 60,000-seat Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan and win it. “I want to win this competition,” said the prolific scorer in Cairo as he showed off a new haircut following social media criticism of his scraggly locks.  “Having come so close twice, I would love to help Egypt win the final and lift the Cup of Nations trophy.”I am so happy to play in this wonderful African football tournament and my teammates and I are desperate to succeed. “It means a lot to play for the Egyptian national team. It is a great feeling to put on the red jersey, which has been worn by some many greats in the past.- ‘Representing millions’ -“Every time I step on the pitch I am conscious of my role — I am representing millions of Egyptians.”We know the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities, towns and villages will be empty when we play in the Ivory Coast.”People will either be at home or in cafes, cheering our every move, willing us to score and wishing us success.” Salah, who arrived at Liverpool in 2017 after spells with Al Mokawloon in his homeland, Basel, Chelsea, Fiorentina and Roma, is no stranger to success.He helped Liverpool win the Club World Cup and UEFA Champions League in 2019 and the Premier League one year later.In his last match for the Reds before flying to Egypt, the 31-year-old whose full name is Mohamed Salah Hamed Mahrous Ghaly netted twice in a 4-2 league win over Newcastle United.Ghana boast the third most successful Cup of Nations record with four titles, behind Egypt (seven) and Cameroon (five), but it is 42 years since they last triumphed.Otto Addo, who quit as Black Stars coach after an early 2022 World Cup exit in Qatar, turned heads when he said the fixture against Egypt will be the easiest in the group for his country. “Egypt are going to be overwhelming favourites to beat Ghana so all the pressure will be on them. The Black Stars will be motivated by the fact that no one gives them a chance. “I believe it is easier to face Mohamed Salah and the other Egyptian stars than trying to break down the well-organised defences of Cape Verde and Mozambique.” Ghana are pinning their hopes of a good run on Mohammed Kudus, an attacking midfielder who has been outstanding for West Ham United this season.They can also call on the long-serving Ayew brothers – attackers Andre and Jordan — as they attempt to banish memories of a disastrous 2022 campaign that ended in first-round elimination.