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Africa Cup of Nations

Salah: Egypt have mental fight on our hands in Afcon bid

23:27 SAST 2022/01/30
CAN 2022 - Egypte-Maroc Salah-Trezeguet
The Pharaohs’ mental game must be at its best if they’re to dispatch Nations Cup hosts Cameroon in the semi-final, according to their talisman

Mohamed Salah believes that Egypt’s players have a mental battle on their hands if they’re to overcome Cameroon and reach the Africa Cup of Nations final.

The Liverpool forward scored one and assisted another as the Pharaohs defeated Morocco 2-1 in extra time during Sunday’s North African derby at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde, setting up a semi-final clash with hosts Cameroon on January 3.

While the seven-time champions are wary of the physical demands on their team after twice playing extra time in back-to-back knockout games—against the Ivory Coast and Morocco—Salah believes the true challenge will be in the mind.

“Physically, I’m fine, the players are fine, playing two games—240 minutes—in six days is fine, we're young, we’re healthy,” he told GOAL, “but we have to fight with our mind.

“I told the players after 90 minutes that they were brave, very brave, and we gave 100 percent to win the game. The players have given everything in each match.”

Salah equalised for Egypt in the 53rd minute after Sofiane Boufal had given Morocco a seventh-minute lead from the penalty spot, and then turned provider 10 minutes into extra time when he set up Aston Villa wideman Trezeguet for a tap-in.

The forward now takes his tally for the campaign up to two goals in five matches, having earlier bagged the winner in the Pharaohs’ 1-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau, and is looking forward to Egypt’s semi-final against the Indomitable Lions.

“It’s now time to focus on Cameroon,” he continued, “and we take it from there, hopefully we’ll now go on and win it.

“My expectation is that it’s going to be a tough game, that’s for sure, but our coach [Carlos Queiroz] has been working for 40 years, so we have lots of experience [on our side].

“Us players are talking together, when we sit together, and we want the people back in Egypt to be happy.”

Queiroz, seemingly more concerned about the physical strain on Egypt's players after their consecutive extra-time performances in both knockout matches, has revealed that he’ll put special measures in place to help the North Africans recover from their recent exploits.

“The most important thing is to rest and recuperate,” he told GOAL, “physically and mentally.

“The players are tired, particularly because the weather is hot, there’s a lot of humidity, and it’s hard to play for 120 minutes in this weather.

“We’ll develop a programme which is very sensitive to prepare our players to play against Cameroon, as we want them to be ready for this match.”

Salah is aiming to reach his second Afcon final at his third Nations Cup tournament, having been part of the side defeated by Cameroon in the 2017 final, before crashing to a Second Round exit against South Africa on home soil two years later.