Egypt skipper Mohamed Salah will head back to English Premier League pacesetters Liverpool for treatment on his injured left leg after watching his Egypt teammates play their crucial Group B clash against Cape Verde on Monday night at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Salah, 31, was substituted during the first-half of his side’s game against Ghana on 18 January.
Without him Egypt twice came from behind to draw 2-2. The stalemate left them with two points from their two games and the seven-time champions will need to beat already qualified Cape Verde at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan to advance to the last-16 knockout stages.
Initial tests suggested that Salah could be operational should Egypt reach the quarter-finals.
But further examinations revealed he would be unlikely to be fit until the semi-finals on 7 February.
“It was decided that the player will return to England after the Cape Verde match to complete his treatment, with the hope that he will join the national team in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations if we qualify,” said an Egyptian FA statement which was posted on Liverpool’s official club website.
On Sunday as Egypt geared up for the crunch tie, Salah delivered a passionate rallying call to his team who have failed to ignite at the continent’s most prestigious national team tournament.
“Cape Verde have been doing well,” said Salah. “Their team is strong and they believe in themselves.
“But we have great players. The best 27 players in Egypt are here and with courage and confidence I believe we will win.”
Failure to qualify would be a huge humiliation for one of the powerhouses of African football. Egypt, who reached the 2021 final, are considered one of the favourites for the crown.
“We need to stay positive,” Salah added. “We need to qualify for the next stage and go from there.”
Cape Verde have been one of the surprises at the tournament which should have been played during the summer of 2023.
They beat Ghana 2-1 in their opening game and swept past Mozambique 4-2 in their second fixture to take Group B.
Cape Verde boss Bubista said he would decide at the last minute whether to rest players or not for the tie. “We will have the best players on the pitch,” insisted the former Cape Verde skipper.
“We have players who have played twice and our strength is our unity,” added the 54-year-old.
“We are happy and proud that we have qualified but we also want to respect the tournament. Egypt is one of the best football nations on the continent and we have to play with that in mind.”