How Mo Salah’s world best dreams froze in the cold at the hands of Russian ‘mafia’
Africa's Mohamed Salah was mentioned among the strong contenders for the world's best player alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In Russia, those dreams for Africa's most prolific attacker at the World Cup got frozen.
In the cold weather in Russia, Egypt searched for warmth as they crumpled in frozen bits of home support.
Football on Egypt’s side was not good enough.
Ahmed Fathi was benevolent on the day, an unwanted act in the circumstance under consideration. His own goal boosted the hosts who went on to get two more from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba.
Before the fixture between Russia and Egypt, these were not names football fans across the globe looked up to. In fact, there was only one name, Mohamed Salah.
The Egyptian magician who had won against football’s injury woes to cross the Sahara of his motherland overseas into the cold temperatures of Russia had a mission to complete.
A mission that started with his move to English Premier League club Liverpool. Salah didn’t know he would be compared among football greats by the time he made his first ever FIFA World Cup appearance.
Mohamed Salah did score in his first appearance for Egypt at the World Cup, a penalty kick for his team’s only goal against Russia in the 3-1 defeat.
For football’s personal accolades, Egypt’s sensational attacker was ranked among the best for the next world best footballer of the year.
What has been the case in recent years is a dual between Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
So, for Mohamed Salah to be mentioned among these two is a feat in itself. A feat that did not just come out of nothing.
Salah was a sensation for Liverpool in the just ended season. The Egyptian scored 44 goals for his club, the same number of goals current World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid.
Lionel Messi led the goal-scoring chart with 45 but was sidelined in the middle of the world best predictions because Salah’s Liverpool had a Champions League final game against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.
The game was played. After the final whistle in Kyiv, Real Madrid came up top, winning their 13th UEFA Champions League trophy.
With Cristiano Ronaldo underwhelmingly performing in the Champions League final based on his own performance, another stage was set for the debate of who wins the world’s best player.
FIFA World Cup tournaments always give a different twist to these awards. Lead your team to glory for a whole new debate on who deserves it.
Cristiano Ronaldo went to Russia as captain of Portugal, Lionel Messi went to Russia as captain of Argentina with Mohamed Salah leading the Pharaohs of Egypt at the World Cup.
Salah’s slightest hope of being the next world best player heavily relied on how Egypt fared in Russia. After two games, that story is nothing to write home about.
Egypt started their campaign with a game against Uruguay without their talisman. An only goal from Jose Gimenez took all points from the African nation, denting hopes of a successful run in Russia for the Egyptians.
In their second game at the tournament, Mo Salah returned in all his goal-scoring glory. However, his penalty goal was not enough as a determined host nation Russia scored three more having scored five already in their first game.
Mathematically, Egypt has a slight chance of making it out of their group ahead of their last group game Saudi Arabia. Realistically, all hope is lost and same goes for Mo Salah’s chances of pipping Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to be named the World Footballer of the Year.
Salah’s case has not been helped by Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance for his two games played. The World Football of the Year and leader of the European champions, Portugal almost single-handedly claimed a point for his side in the game against Spain.
His only goal against Morocco also claimed all three points for his team making him a better player at the FIFA World Cup than Mohamed Salah.
Ronaldo has four goals at the World Cup. Mohamed Salah has one and Messi has none.
Between Messi and Ronaldo, the competition still offers the opportunity for these two players to shine.
For Mohamed Salah, however, a dream to of winning the world’s best footballer got frozen in the cold of Russia as he couldn’t make an impact as he would at the hands of Russian ‘mafia’ whose hopes of a host and win could only get better after eight goals in two games.