Former Uganda manager and Egypt World Cup qualifying nemesis Milutin Sredojević expressed his appreciation for the country’s passionate fan base and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, but concern over the Pharaohs’ World Cup chances.
“When [Salah] was nobody at Arab Contractors, I know how he went to Basel, I know his road and I know who is managing him,” Sredojević told Kick Off magazine of the prolific winger.
“I can tell you that it has not come as an accident, but he has gone through thick and thin in his life in order to have reached this level.
“He’s one of the rare players that gives equally to the national team and to his club,” he added.
Sredojević rose to popularity in African football circles for the ascension of Uganda’s national team under his tutelage.
The Serbian tactician guided the Cranes to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals, their first since 1978.
Uganda were neck-and-neck with Egypt in Group E of Africa’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers, eventually finishing in second place.
Sredojević left the job in August of 2017 because of unpaid wages and re-joined South Africa’s Orlando Pirates.
However, his time in competition with the Pharaohs left an indelible mark.
“When talking about Egypt, the love and passion Egyptians have towards their national team is something very hard to believe,” he opined.
“What you saw in the CAF Champions League final between Zamalek and Sundowns, now multiply that by 10; that is the passion they felt when Salah scored the penalty in the 95th minute against Congo-Brazzaville.”
However, the 48-year-old coach believes it’ll take more than reliance on Salah for Egypt to make an impact at this summer’s FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
“One player alone – and you can see it in the case of Argentina [and Lionel Messi] – cannot carry the team by himself,” he said.
“In Egypt’s match against Portugal they were able to take the lead, but then in two minutes it could all fall apart because to reach the highest level, football has gone that far that you need to have a group of players, not one individual to carry the team.
“Salah’s shoulders can carry the team to a certain level but when it comes to the best results and performances, the power of individuals fall down and cracks appear, like Spain showed against Argentina [in their recent friendly],” he added.
“The time when individuals – Maradona in 1986 and 1990, Roberto Baggio with Italy – carries the team alone; or two players – Bebeto and Romario for Brazil – have slowly gone.
“I have the sense, as a technical person, that the power of making results go towards the team lies not only with individuals anymore,” he concluded.
Egypt manager Héctor Cúper has occasionally been criticized for over-reliance on Salah, with fans and pundits citing under-utilization of talent around him that could help carry the load.
The Pharaohs are entering the final stretch of their World Cup preparations.
The team will face Kuwait on May 26 before taking on Belgium and Colombia in June.
Egypt are in Group A of the 2018 World Cup along with hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay; who they’ll face to open the competition on June 15.