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

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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.

Bravo fit again, but will he start Chile’s Confed Cup group finale?

Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
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MOSCOW (AP) Claudio Bravo is fit again and could start in goal against Australia at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said Saturday.

Bravo – who is Chile’s joint most-capped player with Alexis Sanchez – hasn’t played since April 27, when he injured his calf for Manchester City in a derby game with Manchester United.

“Claudio is fit, he’s managed to train the last couple of days just like his other teammates,” Pizzi said. “He’s ready and available to play.”

Pizzi brushed off concerns about a lack of match fitness, saying that “quite obviously we take into account that factor” but players like Bravo are “are of such good quality that it isn’t that important they haven’t played in the last couple of months.”

Stand-in Johnny Herrera played in Chile’s 2-0 group stage win over Cameroon and Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Germany.

Gary Medel was substituted with a minor injury while playing in defense for Chile against Germany. Teammate Francisco Silva said Saturday that Medel had complained of “a very small muscle contraction issue” but was now fit.

Pizzi said he will aim to tire out Australia with Chile’s trademark all-action style, even though his team struggled for energy in the latter stages against Germany.

“This energy drop we had in the second half didn’t damage us too much because the opposing team couldn’t maintain a high pace because of the demands we’d imposed on them,” Pizzi said of the Germany game.

“We’re going to try to get (the Australians) tired as well and use this to beat our opponent, and we hope this is going to translate into goals.”

USMNT’s Wood extends Hamburg contract through 2021

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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) American forward Bobby Wood extended his contract with Bundesliga side Hamburger SV on Saturday to 2021.

Wood, who joined Hamburg from second-tier Union Berlin, scored five goals and set up two more in 28 Bundesliga games. He had 17 goals in 31 second-division games for Union the season before.

“Not only his goals count for us, but his readiness to run and challenge,” Hamburg sporting director Jens Todt said. “Bobby is a key player for our offense and a real team player.”

Wood has eight goals in 32 appearances for the United States.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

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Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.