Mohamed Salah defends Egypt team as AFCON future hangs in balance

Mohamed Salah has come to the defence of the Egypt national team after poor performances have put his side at risk of a shock early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Salah scored an injury time penalty to salvage a point against Mozambique in Egypt's opening group game, before being forced off with a muscle injury in their second outing against Ghana, which also ended all square.

Now looking ahead to their make-or-break game against group leaders Cape Verde, Egypt will feel they need to find their first win of AFCON if they have any hope of progressing to the knockouts.

However, they'll have to do it without captain and talisman Salah, who will be watching on from the sidelines as he recuperates from a hamstring problem.

It'll be a big task for the 2021 finalists, but Salah doesn't believe his side are doomed - even without his presence in the lineup.

“I don’t believe my presence puts extra pressure on the players," he said at a press conference in Ivory Coast. "It is not mandatory to play with Mohamed Salah.

“Any player can be replaced and the others will improve open performance but it doesn’t mean that player has adversely affected the performance of those players.

"I hear the critics. When we lose a match, people are very critical. I believe in my team and I believe in the players. I think we will continue to improve on our performance.

"It is true that I am the captain but I wish people would be more flexible and realise players are giving their best, even if the outcome is different to what is expected.

“I respect all opinions. I do my best but I don’t take into account what is being said on social media.”

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