“I couldn’t believe they scored. I was waiting for an offside flag or something.”
That was the reaction of Egypt and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah after Congo’s 87th-minute equalizer in their October World Cup qualifier against the Pharaohs.
“I can’t accept that this is a final result,” Salah said in an interview with On TV.
“While I was on the ground I thought, if the others see me like this, they’ll lose enthusiasm. All this went through my mind in less than 10 seconds.
“I already saw the match play out many times in my head, that we’ll win and qualify, and that we’ll be playing in the World Cup. In my mind I refused to see something else, that we draw and have to go to Ghana and get a result.
“It was a lot of confusion. For a moment I asked myself ‘are we really cursed when it comes to the World Cup’? But I don’t believe in things like luck.”
And then came Salah’s do-or-die penalty kick in injury time with the weight of not only 80,000 in a packed Borg Al Arab Stadium, but 90 million Egyptian faithful on his shoulders.
“When we got the penalty, I didn’t celebrate. Because I know I’m the one that has to take it.
“I practiced penalties the day before the game. I kept shooting it in that same spot but El-Hadary saved it three times. He made me doubt if that’s the spot I should be shooting it if we get a penalty. I was thinking about it all night.
“I looked around me and saw people celebrating. I looked in the crowd and saw a sea of mobile phones raised. So, of course that was a lot of pressure.”
Salah, of course, converted the spot-kick ending a World Cup finals drought for Egypt that spanned 28 yeras.
“It didn’t hit me for two days,” Salah says.
“I didn’t get on social media until two days later. That’s when it hit me and I felt the same way the fans felt the moment we qualified.”
Egypt kicks-off its 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign July 15 against Uruguay.