Salah swears revenge as Egypt and Senegal battle for World Cup spot
Egypt captain Mohamed Salah has vowed to avenge an Africa Cup of Nations final loss last month to Sadio Mane-inspired Senegal when they face off again in a World Cup play-off on Friday 2022.
The failure of the continental final was particularly bitter for Liverpool’s prolific goalscorer Salah, as he was also part of the Egyptian side that lost the 2017 Nations Cup final to Cameroon, AFP said. .
His Liverpool team-mate Mane played a pivotal role in Senegal’s first Nations Cup triumph – atoning for a missed penalty in regulation time by converting the spot-kick that won the shoot-out.
Egypt will host the first leg on Friday and Senegal will have home advantage next Tuesday, with the aggregate winners filling one of five Africa-only places in the 32-nation final in Qatar.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the five first legs with Cameroon chasing a record eighth appearance by an African nation at the World Cup and Mali hoping to reach the final for the first time.
Egypt-Senegal Senegal coach Aliou Cisse says the Nations Cup triumph is history and all that matters is securing a second successive World Cup appearance.
“Winning the Nations Cup is not an end in itself because we share the common goal of playing the World Cup again,” he told reporters.
With a ‘backbone’ made up of Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye and Mane, Senegal are well equipped to succeed.
Egypt welcome back star goalkeeper Mohamed el Shenawy, who missed the Nations Cup final through injury, but they were the second-best team in the African title decider and start as underdogs.
Egyptian media reported that Egypt captain Mohamed Salah told his teammates after the penalty shootout loss to Cameroon that “we will find them (Senegal) next month and inshallah (God willing) we will get revenge.”
Ghana v NigeriaNigeria are favored but tradition suggests a close affair with each nation winning twice in the previous World Cup qualifiers and four other fixtures drawn.
Both fared poorly at the Nations Cup with shocking losses to Ghana in the first round after losing to minnows Comoros and Nigeria making a tentative start in the round of 16 against Tunisia.
Nigeria have a stronger squad than Cameroon with strikers Emmanuel Dennis, Odion Ighalo and Victor Osimhen now available, but injured midfielder Wilfred Ndidi is absent.
Ghana sacked Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac after the Nations Cup debacle and brought in Otto Addo with the help of former Newcastle and Brighton boss Chris Hughton.
Cameroon v AlgeriaHosts Cameroon have sacked Portuguese Toni Conceicao after finishing third in the Nations Cup and signing legend Rigobert Song on the orders of President Paul Biya.
Song picked the bulk of the squad eliminated by Egypt in the semi-finals and there will be plenty of interest in how he treats Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Choupo-Moting was furious at not being part of the starting line-up against the Pharaohs and teaming up with captain and Nations Cup top scorer Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko Ekambi.
Algeria suffered a disastrous defense of the Nations Cup title, exiting after the first round, and coach Djamel Belmadi dropped 11 from the squad he took to Cameroon in January.
DR Congo v Morocco DR Congo are the only one of the 10 contenders not to have had a Nations Cup practice match – they finished third in a qualifying group and missed the match.
It could be advantageous, however, as Morocco won’t have recent footage of the Leopards, whose only previous World Cup appearance was in 1974, when the country was called Zaire.
However, it’s no secret that Dieumerci Mbokani is the man Morocco need to chain after the 36-year-old scored four qualifying goals after being called up after several years in the desert.
Nations Cup quarter-finalists Morocco have a star full-back in Ashraf Hakimi, but Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech will be out due to a falling out with manager Vahid Halilhodzic.
Mali v TunisiaMali and Tunisia met in the Nations Cup in Cameroon and a two-penalty tale ended with the West African Eagles winning 1-0 after Ibrahima Kone scored and that Wahbi Khazri missed.
Closer encounters are likely with Mali in hopes of making history and robbing Tunisia of a sixth World Cup appearance.
A boost for Mali is Everton’s French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s late decision to represent his parents’ country.
Tunisia, which lost to Burkina Faso in the Nations Cup quarter-finals, recalled striker Taha Yassine Khenissi after serving a six-month doping ban.