Egypt and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will carry the hopes of the Africa Cup of Nations hosts on his slender shoulders just weeks after winning the European crown with his club.
Salah, 27, will also be hoping to banish the nightmare of last year’s World Cup in Russia when he played with a barely healed shoulder injury, Egypt were eliminated in the first round and their hosts in Chechnya used the team for political purposes.
He comes into the tournament on a high, having scored the second-minute penalty that put Liverpool on their way to winning the Champions League final against Tottenham in Madrid.
The Egyptian also won the Golden Boot for the top scorer in England for the second season in a row, although this time his 22 goals were equalled by Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who share the award with him, making it an all-African affair.
Liverpool though were pipped to the Premier League title by Manchester City.
“As soon as Salah touches the ball, he’s dangerous,” Tunisia player Naim Sliti told AFP after facing Egypt in a qualifier.
“You just mustn’t let him get the ball, because something always happens when he has it.”