Mohamed Salah: We want to make history, achieve something different
Egypt international winger Mohamed Salah spoke about the strengths of the Egyptian national team and what he and his teammates are trying to achieve in the World Cup.
The Pharaohs will be making their first World Cup appearance in 28 years when they face Uruguay in their group stage opener on June 15. They will then play against hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 19 and June 25.
National team head coach Hector Cuper and his players arrived in Cairo on Thursday and will be rested until the team’s open training session set to be held at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday night. Egyptian fans will be able to watch the team’s final training prior to their departure on Sunday morning to Grozny, Egypt’s base for the World Cup.
“It’s the first time in 28 years that we qualified… It was not normal because we won the African Cup seven times, and we were champions in 2006, 2008 and 2010. It was common to win the African Cup, but we didn’t qualify for the World Cup,” Salah told Spanish outlet Marca.
“And it was something we all said: ‘wow, we have to do it, we have to do it.’ We had not achieved it for a long time and it was something very special. Maybe like for Spain to win the World Cup,” he added.
The Pharaohs recently lost 3-0 to Belgium in Brussels in their last friendly ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which is set to kick off in one week. During their final training camp, Egypt played two other friendlies as they drew with Kuwait and Colombia.
As for the team’s goal in the World Cup, the Liverpool winger said: “I think we have a great team and a great coach, we want to qualify for the next round and do well.”
Salah stated that for his personal goals he is mainly looking to support the team qualify by scoring goals and help the team do better in matches in general.
“It’s hard to say, but I think our group and togetherness,” he said when asked about the strengths of his national team. “We play differently with Hector Cuper than with our previous coach Shawky Gharib. We are strong as a group, we all have the same goal, to help the team win the game, that is the most important thing.
“But I can’t say only one strong point, the main one is that we all play together.”
Regarding what he thinks about the effect manager Hector Cuper had on him, Salah assured that Cuper helped him improve technically.
“He’s helped me to defend better, but he also finds a way to make it easier to attack. I think I’ve improved with him,” he explained.
All eyes will be on the young star given his incredible scoring tally this season with Liverpool, which resulted in 44 goals in all competitions, in addition to being Egypt’s top scorer in the World Cup qualifiers.
When asked if he is feeling pressure from fans due to the huge responsibility laid on him, he said: “The pressure was to qualify for the World Cup. Of course, someone can now say ‘ok, we’ve qualified, that’s it’. But for me it’s not like that, we want to make history, achieve something different.
“In my head the pressure is to achieve something different from what we have done. Not just going there, three games and thank you very much. That doesn’t go through my head.”
Group A leader and runner-up will probably be facing either Spain and Portugal who are expected to lead Group B if they managed to surpass victims of the cruel draw Morocco and Iran.
“Could be, Spain or Portugal. Hopefully. They have a great team and it would be hard to play against them. But you never know what can happen,” Salah added.
“I played with Diego Costa and Azpilicueta at Chelsea, with Alberto Moreno at Liverpool… they have some top players. I can’t say one, but I like Costa a lot, when I played with him it was amazing. As a man he is top top top, and as a footballer he is very good.”
Salah recalled the first World Cup he watched which was the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
“I couldn’t exactly tell you a match, but I did see games from my home in my town. Brazil won it. 2-1? No, 2-0, both goals by Ronaldo,” he concluded.