By KEVIN KOCZWARA
Bob Bradley’s magical journey as head coach of the Egyptian national team looks like it could be coming to an end without fulfilling the African country’s dream of reaching the World Cup.
Ghana dealt Egypt’s quest of reaching the 2014 tournament in Brazil a serious blow on Tuesday with an overwhelming 6-1 victory in the first World Cup qualifier of their two-legged play-off. Asamoah Gyan, a player Bradley is familiar with, helped lead the way for the Black Stars by scoring a brace in front of the delighted crowd at Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, Ghana.
Gyan opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a powerful strike off the far post and the dominant Ghanaians extended their lead thanks to a Wael Gomaa own goal in the 22nd minute. Egypt pulled one back in the 41st minute but they conceded again before the intermission, giving Ghana a two-goal lead that would only grow in the second half.
Egypt got off to a nightmare start, falling behind 2-0 before the half-hour mark. Bradley’s side refused to lie down, however, and it got what seemed at the time like an important away goal in the 41st minute through a Mohammed Aboutrika penalty kick.
It took only two minutes for Ghana to completely regain control of the match thanks to a header from Abdul Majeed Waris following a Sulley Muntari cross that made the scoreline 3-1 at halftime. The Pharaohs never recovered.
Gyan extended Ghana’s lead to three goals in the 54th minute before Muntari added a goal from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute. Christian Atsu capped the scoring in the 89th minute to further dash Egypt’s hopes.
Bradley, who was head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team when they were eliminated from the 2010 World Cup by Ghana, seemed to be leading Egypt on an improbable run to next summer’s tournament prior to Tuesday. The African country was thrown into turmoil during the Arab Spring and then there was the Port Said Stadium riot, where more than 70 people were killed.
Security concerns have forced Bradley’s team to play home games behind closed doors and the Egyptian league to be suspended, but none of that seemed to deter the Egyptians as they looked to make it to their first World Cup since 1990. Egypt took Group G with ease in the second round of Confederation of African Football qualifying and were the only undefeated team remaining in this World Cup cycle in the entire world before suffering Tuesday’s lopsided defeat.
Overcoming a five-goal deficit at home will be a tall order for Egypt, but that is what they will try to do when they host the second leg of the play-off on Nov. 19.
What do you think of Egypt’s 6-1 loss to Ghana? Impressed by the Black Stars’ dominant performance? Do you see Egypt having any chance at pull off the improbable five-goal comeback in November?
Share your thoughts below.