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.


Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

Updated 13 August 2018
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Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

  • New coach tells team they have to go up a gear it they are to beat Al-Ittihad in London this weekend.
  • Omar Abdulrahman set to make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup.

Al-Hilal have been told that they have to go up a gear if they are to have a chance of victory against Al-Ittihad in Saturday’s Super Cup in London.
The Riyadh giants kicked off the new season with a 1-0 victory over Oman’s Al-Shabab in the Arab Champions Cup on Sunday. But coach Jorge Jesus has told his players that only a much better display will allow them to get their hands on the Super Cup trophy at QPR’s Loftus Road stadium this week.  
Al-Shabab were beaten thanks to a goal from right-back Mohammed Al-Breik midway through the first-half. It gives Al-Hilal a slim advantage to take to the away leg in September as they bid to reach the last 16.
For Jesus, the match was another step toward being where he wants to be when the Saudi Pro League kicks off at the end of August.
“We were missing a number of players and when we are at full strength then we will be at a different level,” the Portuguese coach said.
“We can play better than this and we need to be more clinical in attack and take our chances.”
It was a hard-fought game against a committed and physical opponent who seemed to relish taking on the star-studded hosts.
“It was the kind of test that we needed at this stage,” added the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss who was appointed in June.
“It was good to keep a clean sheet and we are now looking forward to the next game in London.”
The 64-year-old is expecting a tough test against domestic rivals Al-Ittihad in the British capital, not least because the Jeddah club’s new coach is Ramon Diaz. Even though he led Al-Hilal to last year’s AFC Champions League final, the Argentine was fired by the Riyadh club in February.
There is mixed news for Al-Hilal, however, as they prepare to defend their domestic title. Star midfielders Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed played no part against Al-Shabab and may miss the start of the league season. Otayf has picked up a knee injury that could keep the 25-year-old out of action for two or three weeks. Al-Abed, meanwhile, is struggling to recover from a series of injuries and niggles that have kept the playmaker out of action since last year. The 28-year-old will undergo a series of tests to determine whether surgery is needed. Salman Al-Faraj, another Saudi Arabia international, missed the game but should be fit for the trip to London.
Jesus surprised fans by pushing 19-year-old Nasser Al-Dawsari into the middle, and the teenager impressed with an assured display. It was enough to suggest that he could play a significant role in the team in the coming season as Al-Hilal look to challenge on multiple fronts at home, in Asia and in the Arab Champions Cup.
New signing Omar Abdulrahman did not play. But the 2016 Asian Player of the Year, who joined the club last week in a season-long deal that cost an estimated $17 million — the second most expensive loan signing in football history — was introduced to the crowd during half-time at the King Saud University Stadium. The United Arab Emirates playmaker received a rapturous reception as he returned to his boyhood club.
Jesus also revealed that there may be another addition to the squad before the Saudi Arabian summer transfer window closes on Aug. 23. “We are working on bringing in a new striker,” the coach said.
“If all goes well then the deal should be done soon.”
 Having faced King’s Cup winners Al-Ittihad at Loftus Road this Saturday, the Saudi Arabian champions will then return home for the start of their title defense on Aug. 31 against Al-Feiha.