Mohamed Salah backed to finish World Cup as winner of the Golden Boot

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah is fancied to cap off a remarkable season by winning the Golden Boot. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Mohamed Salah backed to finish World Cup as winner of the Golden Boot

  • Egyptian beats Ronaldo and Messi in top-scorer poll
  • Hopes are high that an Arab nation could go deep into the tournament

Doubts over the fitness of Mohamed Salah has not dissuaded fans from believing the Egyptian superstar will finish the World Cup as the top-scorer.
The Liverpool forward is back in training after injuring his shoulder in the Champions League final at the end of last month, but Egyptian officials are keen not to rush him back and are being coy over his return date. He has an outside chance of facing Uruguay on Friday but a more realistic target is the games against Russia and Saudi Arabia, two matches against the lowest ranked sides in the competition when Salah could fill his goalscoring boots.
He had a hand in all seven of Egypt's goals in qualifying, scoring five and creating two — and football followers are expecting him to add to his international tally of 33 in 57 games.
He tops the table of who fans think will be the highest goal scorer at the tournament, with one in six (17 percent) fans across the 11 countries surveyed in a YouGov Omnibus/SMG Insight believing he will win the Golden Boot. His figures are boosted by significant support from home: 52 percent of Egyptian football followers say he will take the prize won by James Rodriguez in 2014. Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is in second place (15 percent) followed by Barcelona Lionel Messi in third (13 percent).
The Arab world is represented by four nations, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt — and there is huge optimism among football fans in the Middle East and North Africa that one of them could go all the way. One in five (21 percent) Moroccan fans with an opinion believe their side will win, despite sports data firm Gracenote giving them just a one per cent chance of lifting the World Cup. The Moroccans go into the tournament on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run. Likewise, 19 percent of Egyptians think their side will win and 14 percent of Saudi Arabians expect success (Gracenote put the odds for both teams lifting the trophy at 0%).
The most avid followers, according to the survey, can be found in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where 41 percent and 40 percent respectively of those with an interest in football say they intend to watch “all or most” of the matches.


Saudi Arabia out of Asian Cup after 1-0 defeat to Japan

Updated 56 min 30 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia out of Asian Cup after 1-0 defeat to Japan

  • Tomiyasu goal enough to give Japan place in the quarterfinals.
  • Green Falcons struggled to break down a determined Japan side.

LONDON: Takehiro Tomiyasu's lone strike sent Saudi Arabia crashing out of the Asian Cup as Japan beat the three-time champions 1-0 to reach the quarterfinals.
Tomiyasu's first-half header was enough to seal it for Japan as the last-16 game between two teams with seven titles between them failed to live up to its billing.
Japan, record four-time winners of the Asian Cup, march on to a quarter-final with Southeast Asian champions Vietnam despite not yet hitting top form at the tournament.
Saudi Arabia were in the ascendancy early on but it was Japan who snatched the advantage with a straightforward goal from a set piece on 20 minutes.
From a corner, Belgium-based defender Tomiyasu climbed above his marker and nodded firmly into the bottom corner for his first of the tournament.
The Saudis twice came close with headers as they strived for a way back, and Hatan Bahbri curled one just off-target as he went for the top corner.
Yoshinori Muto's shot was blocked on the hour-mark but most of the chances were falling to Saudi Arabia, who will rue some wasteful finishing.
Bahbri's shot from outside the box crept narrowly wide and Ali Al-Bulaihi powered a strong header over when the ball was knocked back into the area after a free-kick.
But despite a late flurry it remained another goalless outing for the Saudis, who haven't hit the net since scoring six goals in their first two group games.