The Egyptian National Team was handed a boost for their World Cup hopes after the Egyptian Football Association granted Bob Bradley’s request to play their playoff match against Ghana in Cairo and in front of fans.
The match is set for November 19th and will be the second leg of the competition after the October 15th opener in Ghana.
Following last week’s draw for the African World Cup playoffs, Bradley requested the home leg be played in nation’s capital and that fans be allowed to attend.
“We would love to play in Cairo,” Bradley said after the draw. “That is the dream of the team.”
That dream will now be realized as the EFA slated the match to be played in Cairo’s ’30 June Stadium’. It’s been two years since the Pharaohs last played in the capital where they defeated Niger 3-0. That victory, in October 2011, came four months before the infamous Port Said league match that left more than 70 fans dead.
Since that match Cairo has come undone through political uproar and violence. The unrest prompted the EFA to schedule the national team’s matches outside of the capital city, in places like Alexandria and the seaside resort of El Gouna.
Egypt not only held an unbeaten record at those locations but throughout the entire African qualifying process, winning all six of their group stage games. Now, faced with a playoff against one of the best teams on the continent, Bradley’s squad will return home to the 30,000 capacity seat stadium, which the EFA promises will be full.
During his time in charge of the US Men’s National Team, Bradley’s squad were knocked out of the 2010 World Cup by Ghana in the last 16 in South Africa.
The first legs of the Confederation of African Football World Cup playoffs will take place on October 11th-15th with the second legs taking place from November 15th-19th. Below is the entire playoff fixture list:
For a lot of us, that meant delving into statistics and seeing what matched the eye test. Many started Googling the name “N'Golo Kante“, the dynamic disruptor who’d move to Chelsea in August.
He’s a household name now, with some personalities even arguing that he should buck the trend of Ballon d’Or nominees including only major statistic producers (There was a time when names like Fabio Cannavaro and Matthias Sammer claimed the honor, you know).
For our purposes, we’ll use a pair of advanced stats sites and the good ol’ eye test. (Of the sites we’re using, Squawka seems to skew toward high attack scores, while WhoScored tilts a bit toward the back, so life is good if a player hits both sites’ Top 50).
Before getting into our team — we promise no 10-picture, click-to-reveal-next stuff — some stats that stood out.
— Three players have had outstanding “short” seasons for different reasons.
Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi took a short spell to adjust to the Premier League after arriving in January, but has been the Foxes’ most influential player in their recent turnaround).
Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake essentially was the Cherries’ first-half success before heading back to Chelsea where Antonio Conte won’t move him ahead of Marcos Alonso or Victor Moses (and that’s actually understandable as you’ll see below).
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas just doesn’t feature a ton for Conte, but in limited time his per-90 stats on Squawka trail only Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez.
Ander Herrera (Manchester United, 7.44, 36.64) – Long-heralded at Athletic Bilbao, Herrera is finally showing what made him so sought. One odd stat that may be explained by his willingness to run to any situation: he’s very high in average times dribbled past.
Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton, 7.34, 20.57) – The best player in Aston Villa’s awful 2015-16, he’s been arguably as effective as N’Golo Kante. Seriously.
Matt Phillips (West Bromwich Albion) – Once the top player on a relegated QPR, Phillips is fifth in the Premier League in assists despite missing the last four matches with injury.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur, 7.41, 31.89) – Second in the PL in key passes, he doesn’t get the plaudits of English teammates Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The relationships are very symbiotic.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 7.44) – On an under-achieving team, Zaha’s statistics are wild. He’s the most-fouled player in the league, and attempts/completes the most dribbles in the PL. He gives the ball away a lot, too, but that happens when you’re the focal point of everything your team does in the attacking third.
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, 30.54) – The Nigerian turns 21 in May, and has four goals and seven assists across all competitions.
“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.
“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”
There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).
We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.