Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah was undoubtedly the star man of the international break for the Reds as his double sent Egypt to their first World Cup finals in nearly 30 years, etching his name into Egyptian folklore in the process as his side beat Congo 2-1.
Liverpool had very few star performers on display during the international break, and while midfielder Emre Can bagged his first goal for Germany in a 5-1 victory over Czech Republic, it was his club team-mate Salah who stole all the headlines.
The Pharaohs had not reached the World Cup finals since 1990, and they needed a victory to secure their place after Uganda and Ghana drew their game on Saturday, yet it seemed as though it was out of reach when Arnold Bouka Moutou equalised for the away side with just minutes remaining. However, Salah, like he has done time and time again for both club and country, stepped up when called upon and converted a 95th minute penalty to send a nation into ecstasy.
90,000 supporters packed into the Borg El-Arab Stadium next to the city of Alexandria for Sunday’s match, and indeed Salah’s parents even arrived from his home town of Basyoun, with millions more watching the event back home. The pacey winger did not disappoint as his important double sent Egypt through, with fans, managers and team mates alike all expressing their emotions at the end, many falling to their knees and disbelief and others crying tears of joy.
Salah raised both hands to the sky as he watched the ball fly into the bottom corner from the penalty spot, and despite what must have been immense pressure as he held the weight of the world on his shoulders, the forward slotted the ball home with ease.
The Egyptians still have one group game remaining with Ghana next month, having scored seven goals from their five games, winning four and drawing one. Sunday’s result was unsurprisingly not the first time the number 10 has come to his nation’s rescue, scoring five of the seven goals scored by the country throughout qualification.
Salah’s heroics ensured Egypt were the second African nation to qualify for the prestigious tournament in Russia next year after Nigeria clinched their spot by beating Zambia on Saturday. The attacker will return to Anfield to a hero’s welcome, yet must continue his impressive goal scoring form should the Reds manage to overcome Manchester United in a highly-anticipated fixture this coming Saturday.