International retirement hint? Salah stirs controversy with post-game talk

Ahram Online , Wednesday 30 Mar 2022

Mohamed Salah stirred controversy after appearing to hint that he could retire from international football in a dressing-room talk with his Egypt teammates following a heartbreaking shootout loss to Senegal in a World Cup qualifying playoff on Tuesday.

Mohamed Salah
Egypt s Mohamed Salah, left, reacts after failing to score his penalty kick against Senegal s goalkeeper Edouard Mendy during the World Cup 2022 - Africa playoff soccer match between Senegal and Egypt at at Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade stadium in Dakar, Senegal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022 (AP)

The Liverpool talisman was once again on the losing end, six weeks after Egypt also lost to Senegal on penalties in the African Nations Cup final, as the Pharaohs missed out on a place in the World Cup finals in Qatar.

Sadio Mane upstaged club teammate Salah, coolly converting the winning penalty as Senegal prevailed 3-1 in the shootout following a 1-1 aggregate draw in Dakar.

Salah, who astonishingly blazed his spot-kick high over, endured another disappointing night on the international level, having also lost with Egypt the Nations Cup final in 2017.

The 29-year-old was hailed as a national hero a few years ago when his decisive last-gasp penalty sent Egypt to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia following a nervy 2-1 home victory over Congo.

However, he received rare stiff criticism following Tuesday's defeat in Senegal, with many fans accusing him of doing little to spur his side into action. He was largely a peripheral figure, failing to muster a single effort on target.

Looking dejected, Salah was filmed speaking with his teammates and Egypt's sports minister in the dressing room after the game.

He spoke about how privileged he is to be playing with Egypt's current crop, comparing them to a golden generation that boasted the likes of Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa.

But it was the hint he dropped that sparked intense speculation over his future with the national team.

"I am proud to play with you and it was an honor for me, and what happened for the second time is out of anyone's hands because it is a penalty shootout," Salah said.

"There's not much I can say but it was an honor to play with you, whether I will be there or not," he added, with sports minister Ashraf Sobhi replying: "You will be with us."

Salah might have dropped that hint in the heat of the moment, but unless he makes a clarification, speculation will be rife that he might not be there by the time Egypt take another shot at the Nations Cup title next year.

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