Ghana finish off Egypt to qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil; what now for Bob Bradley?


The finishing off part may have happened last month in Kumasi, when Ghana’s 6-1 win over visiting Egypt all but qualified the Black Stars for the 2014 World Cup. True, the second half of the teams’ two-legged playoff had yet to start, but nobody believed the Pharaohs capable of overturning Ghana’s five-goal edge. For all intents and purposes, the Black Stars were qualified for their third straight World Cup.

Today just confirmed that inevitability. Amr Zaki initially gave Egypt life, taking advantage of Black Stars’ goalkeeper Fatau Dauda’s whiff on a 25th minute Mohamed Aboutrika restart to put home the opener. In the 84th minute Gedo pulled the Pharaohs within two (2-0 lead in the match, 3-5 deficit on aggregate), but their hope was short-lived. With Kevin Prince Boateng’s goal in the 89th minute, Egypt needed more than a miracle.

The 2-1 win may help salvage some Egyptian pride, but they were never in this tie, a fact that keeps Bob Bradley’s future in doubt. The American head coach steered the Pharaohs through a perfect qualifying campaign, but against one of the continent’s powers, they were never competitive. Even today, as his team sought to recover from the embarrassment in Kumasi, Egypt couldn’t build on Zaki’s start, held quiet for nearly an hour before they could cut the lead to two.

For all the good that Bob Bradley has done — for all the loyalty he showed during a political crisis that left Egypt without a domestic league for much of his preparation — he could still be out of a job. Ghana is a continental power, but in theory, Egypt should be, too, the nation possessing a record seven African championships. While being the only team to stay perfect in qualifying before the playoffs looks good on paper, it actually has very little bearing on the end goal: to end a 24-year drought.

Egypt wanted to qualify for their first World Cup wince 1990. They were willing to bring in an American to do so. In the end, Egypt ended up farther from their goal than they were four years ago. Then, they were one goal away from going to South Africa ahead of Algeria. Today, they couldn’t come close to the Ghanaians. Over two legs, they lost by four goals.

Whereas Egypt once ruled the Cup of Nations and but couldn’t qualify for the World Cup, now they can’t qualify for either, and while we shouldn’t overlook the role their domestic crisis played in that turn, we must wait to see if the Egyptian Football Association takes the same view. For all of Bradley’s successes, the bottom line my ultimately overshadow them.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

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Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)

Wenger lauds team spirit following Arsenal’s big win

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Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]

United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.

All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]

Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.

You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.

[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.

[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.

The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.

Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.