Fallout runs deep as Salah, Egypt flop at Cup of Nations
Egypt's Mohamed Salah controls the ball in front of South Africa's Sandile Hlanti during the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 soccer match between Egypt and South Africa in Cairo International stadium in Cairo, Egypt on Saturday.
After his tale of redemption with Liverpool this season, Mohamed Salah was instead left in disbelief once more as Egypt crashed out of their own Africa Cup of Nations, an exit that triggered an immediate clearout within the country's football association.
While Salah helped lead his club to a sixth European Cup triumph in June, a year on from an injury forcing him out of the final, he was powerless to stop the Pharaohs suffering humiliation on the international stage for the second time in 12 months.
The forward arrived here full of promise -- his mood and fitness in sharp contrast to this time last June when his shoulder was injured as he was wrestled to the ground by Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos in the 3-1 loss in the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev.
He scored twice in four matches in Cairo, both goals struck with unerring precision, but rarely looked at his peak surrounded by an Egyptian supporting cast far more limited than he is accustomed to at club level.
But Salah also, uncharacteristically, made headlines off the pitch after offering a degree of support for disgraced team-mate Amr Warda, who was banished from the squad over sexual harassment allegations only to later be recalled -- with Salah at the forefront of appeals for his reinstatement.
One of the most popular Twitter hashtags in the wake of Salah and others defending the midfielder was "National team of sexual harassers".
Salah faced a backlash from many users after saying Warda deserved a "second chance" and that "shunning is not the answer".
Many of Salah's fans noted his hypocritical line of argument. He has made a point of speaking up for women in the Muslim world, and in an April interview with Time magazine he vehemently defended their rights in the region.
Shouldering the weight of expectation of nearly 100 million Egyptians, hoping for a fourth title in five editions as hosts, Salah found himself a capable ally in Mahmoud 'Trezeguet' Hassan, the team's standout performer in the group stage.