Mohamed Salah set to become first global Arab superstar

Updated 19 December 2017
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Mohamed Salah set to become first global Arab superstar

LONDON: When Saeed Al-Owairan slalomed through the Belgian defense at the 1994 World Cup to score one of the greatest goals in the tournament’s history, he did more than send Saudi Arabia to the knockout stage in the country’s first appearance.
He made headlines around the world. Here was a player representing an Arabian country seemingly destined for global superstardom. It never happened. Al-Owairan had a decent career but his trip to the United States was by far the highlight.
Rabah Madjer must be the biggest Arabian name in football history. The striker helped Algeria defeat West Germany at the 1982 World Cup and then Porto defeat Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final. This century however, no Arabian player has really made the step from regional hero to global superstar.
Mohamed Salah, however, looks set to be the first. The Egyptian has been the sensation of the Premier League this season since signing for Liverpool in the summer.
“I do not go to bed at night, thinking: ‘Wow, how good is Salah?’” Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said on Sunday. The German is one of the few, surely.
Sarah put in another fabulous performance — to join the many he has already served up — as the Reds tore Bournemouth apart on Sunday, winning 4-0. It took him to 20 goals in all competitions for his new club, an amazing statistic considering that that it is not yet Christmas and there were questions as to whether he would start regularly for Liverpool when he was signed from Roma in the summer.
The 25 year-old is the talk of the town, the toast of English football and the top scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals. Six more have also come in the Champions League. It is not just the quantity that has been impressive but the quality is there too.
Whatever happens, his first season in England has been a huge success with the only downside being that Liverpool are not in the title race, but then given the form of Manchester City, nobody else is either.
It puts attention on whether the team can go all the way in the Champions League, a tough but not unrealistic goal given Liverpool’s ability to be devastating when the mood takes them.
That would merely confirm Salah’s reputation as the leading Arabian star of the moment and the World Cup can take him even higher. A great goal can give you a place in history as happened to Al-Owairan but a great tournament coupled with a fantastic season at one of the biggest clubs in the world is something else.
Egypt are unlikely to win the trophy but if Salah can lead the Pharaohs to the knockout stage then that will be another fantastic achievement. There is going to be plenty of pressure on his shoulders but he can handle it — his 95th minute penalty against the Congo in October which took his country to the World Cup for the first time since 1990 demonstrated nerves of steel to go with his quicksilver feet.
The draw has been kind to Egypt. Finishing second in a group containing Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay is far from impossible especially when you have one of the most in-form strikers in the world.
The opening game against the South Americans will be crucial. Uruguay are a World Cup powerhouse but recent performances have been mixed. It will be fascinating to see how the current Liverpool hero lines up against Luis Suarez, who arrived from the continent in 2011 to become a sensation at Anfield.
A good result there really sets up the North Africans for a fine tournament with hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia both beatable. Egyptian fans are entitled to be excited about next summer just as much as they will be praying that their talisman stays fit.
Since the days of Madjer, it is hard to argue that there has been an Arabian player who made consistent impact on the global stage. The next few months and Salah could change all that and become the first from the region this century to join the ranks of world stars.


Manchester United inflict more semifinal misery on sorry Spurs

Updated 21 April 2018
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Manchester United inflict more semifinal misery on sorry Spurs

  • Manchester United come from behind to make FA Cup final.
  • Mauricio Pochettino yet to win a trophy as manager.

A third cup final with Manchester United for Jose Mourinho. More FA Cup semifinal misery for Tottenham.
While Mauricio Pochettino wins admiration for his style of football, the manager has yet to actually win a trophy in management.
A 2-1 collapse to United at Wembley Stadium on Saturday left Tottenham reeling from an eighth successive loss in the FA Cup semifinals.
Pochettino is responsible for two of the setbacks, having also fallen short against Chelsea last season.
At the stadium where Tottenham have been playing their home matches this season, Dele Alli's goal gave the 1991 FA Cup winners hope of turning around their miserable record in world football's oldest knockout competition.
But Alexis Sanchez leveled in the 24th minute and Ander Herrera struck the winner in the second half. It ensured Mourinho, who won the League Cup and Europa League in his first season at United, has a chance to also end this campaign with silverware against Chelsea or Southampton in the FA Cup final.
"We're getting used to being in finals," Herrera said. "This club is all about titles and finals."
While Mourinho has fallen short in the English Premier League behind newly crowned champion Manchester City, United are second and on course for their highest finish since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
Tottenham would settle with holding onto fourth place to secure a third season in a row in the Champions League.
Liverpool missed a chance to considerably stretch its advantage over Tottenham in one of Saturday's two league games. Juergen Klopp's side threw away a two-goal lead to draw with last-place West Bromwich Albion 2-2 and move only three points ahead of Tottenham.
Chelsea, who plays Southampton in the other FA Cup semifinal on Sunday, are five points behind Tottenham with four games remaining.

POGBA TRANSFORMED
When United fell behind to Tottenham, Paul Pogba was culpable.
A high ball was launched forward by Tottenham, a lethargic Pogba didn't try to break sweat in an attempt to prevent it reaching Eriksen. It allowed the Dane to whip in a cross for Alli to slide onto at the far post and strike past David De Gea in 11th minute
Had Harry Kane made a connection at the far post with Son Heung-min's cross three minutes later, Tottenham might have extended their lead.
Instead, United were able to draw level. Pogba made amends for his earlier inertia by dispossessing Mousa Dembele and delivering a cross that Sanchez headed past static goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Sanchez did the hard work to create the winner in the 62nd, holding off Kieran Trippier and rolling the ball into the penalty area where Jesse Lingard teed up Herrera to shoot past Vorm.