Mohamed Salah in unfamiliar territory with Egypt fans at 2019 Africa Cup of Nations

Support for national teammate Amr Warda, against whom sexual harassment allegations have been levelled, has led to erosion of reverence supporters have shown for Liverpool star

Hardly anyone in Egypt disagrees that the Pharaohs are not playing anywhere near their best football. Ironically, the Egyptians finished top of Group A in the Africa Cup of Nations, taking maximum points from their three matches and without having conceded a goal.

It is not bad going when you consider that the squad has a single star player - Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah - and the effects of the off-pitch troubles roiling the team since the tournament began on June 21, with a team member expelled from the squad over sexual harassment allegations and reinstated at the insistence of his teammates - led by Salah.

None of this bodes well for the team going forward in the 24-nation tournament, where powerhouses such as Senegal, holders Cameroon, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco await.

"We have achieved good results in the group stage, scoring five goals and conceding none. That's more important than performance," manager Javier Aguirre said after Sunday night's 2-0 win over Uganda, which also qualified to the second round.

Aston Villa's Ahmed Elmohamady, the team captain, does not share the Mexican manager's upbeat take on the results. "Nine points out of three games is something Egypt is used to - the difficult part is what comes next," he told the same post-match news conference.

What no one is saying, though, is how lucky Egypt have been thus far.

Sunday night's clash with Uganda was a case in point. The far more athletic Ugandans were all over the home team players, repeatedly slicing through their defence or getting behind it. Of 17 shots on goal, they had seven on target. The Pharaohs had a total of four shots on goal.

Hassan Shehata, the former Egyptian manager who led the Pharaohs to three of their record seven African titles - including consecutive wins in 2006, 2008 and 2010 - did not mince his words when he offered his assessment of the present squad.

Soccer Football - Africa Cup of Nations 2019- Egypt Training - Military Academy Stadium, Cairo Egypt - June 29, 2019 - Egypt's Amr Warda takes part in a training in preparation for a match against Uganda. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

"We have no real forwards in the this squad, which also misses a playmaker capable of linking the defence with the forward line," he said in a television interview. "To both win and play well is certainly a good thing, but I don't wish for Egypt to play well and lose at the end."

As the case with their first two group matches, the Cairo International Stadium boasted a capacity crowd of 70,000 during the Uganda game. However, some of the reverence traditionally shown by the supporters toward the national squad appears to have vanished.

For example, Salah - widely viewed as someone who can do no wrong while being a source of pride and joy to the fans - has been relentlessly admonished by fans on social media networks for leaping to the defence of Amr Warda, a midfielder who plays club football in Greece and is a frequent target of sexual harassment allegations, when he was thrown out of the squad over disciplinary issues.

Salah, 27, tweeted last week that Warda should be given a second chance and contended that his expulsion would practically end his career. Salah led a players revolt against his expulsion, forcing the sport's local governing body to reinstate Warda.

That unleashed a wave of unprecedented criticism of Salah, who was accused by many of hypocrisy and double standards. It also earned the Pharaohs the unflattering hashtag 'The National Squad of Sexual Harassers'.

Warda, 25, has faced sexual harassment allegations in Greece and in Portugal. In 2013, he was sent home from an Under 23 tournament in Tunisia over allegations he broke into the hotel room of a female French tourist.

Last week, a Dubai-based model accused him of using threatening language when she rejected his online advances. A day later, a video clip purporting to show him engaging in a sexual act surfaced online. A Mexican woman said he had sent her the clip in a bid to seduce her.

But while Warda has been ridiculed and told to get therapy, the controversy surrounding Salah appears to linger, placing the superstar in unfamiliar territory and eroding the deep reverence he has been shown by fans.

"Apologise dude before it's too late! Time is not on your side," an Egyptian university professor wrote, addressing Salah on Facebook.

Salah, who is only accustomed to high praise and adulation by his followers, may have been showing his displeasure over the criticism when he did not celebrate his goal against Uganda on Sunday.