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.