Mohamed Salah will once again lead his country at the African Cup of Nations, with this year’s edition in Ivory Coast set to be a true test of the Egyptian king’s personality and ability.
Salah suffered heartbreak at the hands of former teammate Sadio Mane in 2021, with Senegal winning their first ever AFCON on penalties against Egypt in the final. The responsibility sat on the two-time African player of the year, who struggled to shake off the defeat, with his form seeing a considerable drop-off when returning to Liverpool.
Once again, this responsibility to bring success to one of Africa’s most decorated nations rests on the Premier League star, but this time it will be one of the greatest challenges of his career.
Mo Salah is the only Egyptian player in history to score in 4 consecutive AFCON tournaments 🇪🇬👑 pic.twitter.com/pETl6KAL1z
— Jürgen (@Jurgegenpress2) January 14, 2024
Mo Salah is in some of the best form of his career going into this year’s tournament. In all competitions, the winger has scored 18 goals and provided nine assists for Jurgen Klopp’s side, and he is leading the Premier League golden boot race. Despite this prolific run, Egypt are far from favourites to win AFCON 2023.
It is no surprise Egypt rely massively on Salah; he is one of the best players in the world of football. The role he plays for Liverpool, who are currently first in the Premier League, is not too different, with Salah undoubtedly their most influential player. This, however, is where the similarities between the Reds and the Pharoahs end.
If we compare the Egyptian squad to their competitors at AFCON, the difference in quality is incredible. This year’s hosts, Ivory Coast, have five Premier League players in their first eleven. Defending champions Senegal have top-tier talent throughout their starting lineup, including Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Pape Matar Sarr, Nicolas Jackson, and star player Sadio Mane.
Ghana have players like Mohammed Kudus, Inaki Williams, and the Ayew brothers, while Nigeria have Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, and one of the world’s best strikers, Victor Osimhen. Finally, there are the World Cup 2022 semi-finalists, Morocco, who possess the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Youssef Bounou, Nayef Aguerd, and Hakim Ziyech.
Nigeria lead in Squad Value coming into the #AFCON2023
Ivory Coast €334,580,000.00
Victor Osimhen, valued at €110m is worth more than 14 – AFCON… pic.twitter.com/xJ1euX2Zsw
— Ojora Babatunde (@ojbsports) January 11, 2024
Mohammed Salah has scored 54 goals and provided 32 assists for Egypt in 95 appearances. Trabzonspor’s Trezeguet is the second-highest contributor in this Egyptian squad, with 15 goals and seven assists in 67 appearances. It is clear that all offensive responsibility sits with Salah. The expectation is not only to be the main goal-scorer for his country but also to become the team’s main creator.
Salah has hit the ground running in AFCON 2023, getting a goal and an assist in his first game to help Egypt make an injury-time comeback against Mozambique. If this result is anything to go by, it shows that the expectations placed on Mo Salah, both by his supporters and teammates, will make this competition the biggest challenge of his career.
Mo Salah with a Goal + Assist to save Egypt from embarrassment to take a draw at the opening game.
Clutch. 🇪🇬👑 pic.twitter.com/UoQU9try29
— Samuel (@SamueILFC) January 14, 2024
If the Egyptian King’s influence helps Egypt to their first AFCON since 2010, considering the level of his competitors and the pressure placed upon him, it will be his greatest achievement. Greater than winning the UEFA Champions League and leading Liverpool to their first Premier League title in 30 years.