Javier Aguirre backs Mohamed Salah for Ballon d'Or if Egypt win AFCON

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Coach Javier Aguirre claims Mohamed Salah is a certainty to win the Ballon d’Or if Egypt triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 27-year-old capped a remarkable first two years with Liverpool by lifting the Champions League last month and Aguirre believes victory for the host nation will secure the forward’s place among the world’s greats.

“I see him so far struggling and struggling hard to win the Ballon d’Or. Why not? He is a Champions League winner with Liverpool,” he told Cadena Sur.

“If he can lead Egypt to the African Cup of Nations, no one can keep the Ballon d’Or away from him.”

Salah missed training on Thursday with a cold but is expected to play in the hosts’ last-16 tie against South Africa.

The Liverpool player has two goals from the group stages and Aguirre rejected suggestions his side have not scored enough goals after winning 1-0, 2-0 and 2-0.

“We have scored goals in 10 of the 11 matches since I have been in charge,” he told a press conference.

“It’s very difficult to win each match 5-0, very difficult.”

The Mexican believes the pressure being put on the hosts to win the tournament for an eighth time is huge.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah

“All the players have the same idea when they play against Egypt – that they have nothing to lose,” he added.

“That’s the way they play against us – we are playing at home, we are the favourites, we have Salah, and they have nothing to lose.

“It’s very important that we know how to handle this situation.”

South Africa lost two of their three group matches but still progressed as one of the best third-placed sides.

Coach Stuart Baxter accepts his team are up against it in the knockout stage.

“My players know they can do a little bit better and they know they can be more efficient,” he told a press conference.

“In the final third they know they can improvise a little bit more and I think they are looking forward to that challenge.

“Against the home nation, that may all fall to the ground if they overwhelm us, but I don’t think that is going to happen.”

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Argentina captain Lionel Messi accuses referee of favouring Brazil in Copa America semi-final

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Lionel Messi slammed the standard of officiating after Argentina crashed out of the Copa America with a 2-0 semi-final loss to Brazil.

The Argentina captain felt a number of decisions went against his side in Belo Horizonte as goals from Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino in each half put Brazil through to a final against Chile or Peru.

Messi was particularly aggrieved Argentina were not awarded a penalty by referee Roddy Zambrano immediately prior to Brazil’s second goal but that was only one of a number of complaints.

The 32-year-old told reporters: “They were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty they didn’t award.

“The officiating was crazy. There were clear penalties, on (Nicolas) Otamendi, on ‘Kun’ (Sergio Aguero).

“He (the referee) was on their side. In every divided ball or dispute, he inclined the pitch their way.

“It’s not an excuse, but the truth is that, in this Copa, they kept on blowing for stupid things, for handballs, penalties.

“But today, they didn’t even go to VAR when there were clear plays that should have been looked at.”

Despite the result, Messi was proud of his team-mates and believes there is a bright future ahead for the national side.

The Barcelona star said: “It was the best match we did in the Copa, against a Brazil that has spectacular players in all its lines.

“These guys made a huge sacrifice. They deserve respect. Argentina has the material to keep growing.”

Brazil captain Dani Alves admitted his side had needed to dig deep to secure the result.

He said: “Argentina were a very difficult opponent. We needed to make a barbaric effort.

“It’s one more step towards our goal. Everything we aimed for from the beginning we are fulfilling but we knew it would not be easy.

“I think many people doubted us but we have a lot of trust in our work.”

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Copa America 2019: 'I knew I'd score' says Brazil goal hero Gabriel Jesus after semi-final win

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Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus said after his match-winning display in Tuesday’s 2-0 Copa America semi-final victory over Argentina that he’d had a premonition he would score.

The Manchester City attacker opened the scoring on 19 minutes and then 19 minutes from time fed Roberto Firmino to double Brazil’s advantage as they qualified for their first Copa America final since 2007.

“I felt I would score. I’m not saying that because I scored. Other times I didn’t say this,” said the 22-year-old.

“I was very confident… and I managed to score in a great team performance. Firmino set me up really well.

“I’m delighted, not for the goal but for the team… We scored the goals, we’re all delighted about the match, about the commitment, about the performance.

“We have to play every match with this spirit.”

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