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Huge first leg loss to Ghana leave Bob Bradley, Egypt looking for miracles

Oct 15, 2013, 2:10 PM EDT

Egypt's head coach Bob Bradley of the U.S. takes part in a training session at Air Defence stadium in Cairo Reuters

The harsh realities of Africa’s qualifying minefield came crashing down on Egypt coach Bob Bradley today, with a 90-minute mauling from Ghana leaving the Pharaohs five goals down after leg one of the teams’ World Cup Qualifying playoff. Two goals from former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan, single scores from Abdul Waris, Sulley Muntari, and Christian Atsu combined with a Wael Gomaa own goal to give Ghana six, with only a first half penalty conversion from Mohamed Aboutrika creating a thin silver lining in the Pharaohs’ 6-1 loss in Kumasi.

It was Egypt’s first loss of the tournament, a fact that highlights the precarious nature of Africa’s World Cup Qualifying. Despite going 6-0-0 in the competition’s group phase, the Pharaohs had to go through a playoff to qualify for Brazil 2014. No matter how well a team had done before, they were still left with a two-legged, winner-take-all playoff against another group winner.

That format meant an unfortunate situation like today’s was always likely. No, the playoffs didn’t guarantee this kind of landslide, but it did make it likely two powers would be drawn against each other in at least one of the playoffs. In this case, a seven-time Nations Cup champion (Egypt) was matched up against a quarterfinalist in South Africa 2010. Both would be worthy representatives in Brazil, but thanks to the format, only one could go through.

That will almost surely by Ghana after today’s result. You can never say never in sports, but let’s not minimize this through non-commital cliché. Egypt are done. It would take a comeback of unrealistic proportions to overcome the Black Stars, and while miracles can happen, they’re nearly impossible to find. Egypt’s road to Brazil likely ended in Kumasi.

The team has overcome the repercussions of the Port Said tragedy. They’ve put together a contender despite almost no games in their domestic league. The uncertainties of everyday life back home have  destabilized the country, yet it looked like Egypt could be playing in Brazil. It looked like Bob Bradley had found a way to return to the World Cup.

Now that dream’s basically over. The teams are scheduled for 90 minutes on Nov. 19, but Egypt’s fate may have already been confirmed.

  1. dfstell - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    What a bummer for Bradley and a team that’s had to overcome a lot.

    That’s a real failure though: to lose the first leg so badly that it’s all over. At some point, you have to bunker in and limit the damage.

    I wonder what’ll be next for Bradley. It’s a shame if this tarnishes the work he’s done in Egypt both on and off the field.

  2. tylerbetts - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Well, so much for a fairy tale ending for Bob Bradley and Egypt.

    Two thoughts:

    1) When I think about the disparity between what Mexico has done in qualifying and what Egypt has done in qualifying, and the relative position each currently find themselves in, it’s a rather telling difference. Africa is – by far – the least forgiving federation for qualifying. Egypt could find themselves with 7 wins in 8 matches, and out of the tournament. No where else does second place get you exactly nothing. No where else does first place get you a playoff. It’s brutal. (And, yes, technically, Oceania is similar to the two things I hashed out, but on a different level)

    2) Forget a miracle comeback in the return leg. Egypt’s best chance to advance is CAF finding out that Ghana used an ineligible player in this game and overturning this result. And, when you’re hoping for a technicality and/or the red tape people to help you advance, it’s time to lick your wounds and think about next cycle.

    Bonus thought: Perhaps it will be great to see what kind of crowd Egypt can get for the return leg. A soccer game – in Cairo (if allowed to be there) – with a full house not needing to worry about the pressure of a positive result could turn into a very good thing, with the opportunity to use sports for healing the larger community. I sincerely hope this is the case. Of course, it could go the other way, and turn into a riot and set Egypt back even further, but that’s not the ending I want for Bob.

    • talgrath - Oct 15, 2013 at 6:11 PM

      1) Actually, Oceania 2nd place gives you nothing; 1st only guarantees you a playoff against 4th place in North America so yeah, Oceania gets screwed more than any area.

      2) Agreed, really I think Africa should get a 2nd, but pulling from whom is the question? Sadly I think the answer would have be North America.

  3. hildezero - Oct 15, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    This would’ve been the first time Egypt would’ve gone to the World Cup, right?

    • bear06 - Oct 16, 2013 at 3:43 AM

      No, they were in the World Cup in 1934 and 1990.

  4. mknow406a - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:36 PM

    Is anybody really surprised by this? Look… Bradley is a DECENT coach, but let’s be honest, he is by no means a GREAT international coach. I go back to his tenure with the USMNT and his unwavering loyalty to MLS players he was familiar with (constantly going with Beasley based on his time in Chicago, when there were better options?!?!)… He is completely clueless on personnel and tactics. If you recall, it was not Charlie Davies, but rather Brian Ching that was in line for the Confederations Cup and it was only out of necessity the Davies played at all against Egypt. Really? Davies brought a dimension that the US never had and Bradley kowtowed to the MLS and wanted to go with perennial mediocrity in Ching. Just because he changed nations doesn’t mean he suddenly got a clue! To be honest, I am more surprised that it took this long for it to be noticed that the emperor was wearing no clothes…

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