Huge first leg loss to Ghana leave Bob Bradley, Egypt looking for miracles

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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.

El Tri star Lozano staying focusing amid Barcelona rumors

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Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was a player everyone needed to pay attention to heading into the 2018 World Cup, and through two matches, the El Tri star has been every bit the price of admission for his country.

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Mexico sits atop Group F with six points at the moment, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to Lozano’s endless motor and creative attacking vision when he finds space down the wing.

The PSV Eindhoven attacker has been linked with various big clubs, including La Liga giants Barcelona, but that hasn’t halted Lozano’s pursuit of guiding Mexico to an unprecedented run at the World Cup.

“The important thing is to focus on the next [Mexico] game, do as well as possible and go step by step,” Lozano said.

Despite winning their first two games, El Tri needs at least a point in its final Group F match to ensure qualification without any complications.

Mexico will take on Sweden on Wednesday, as Juan Carlos Osorio’s side aims to remain perfect in the group stage.

Meanwhile, Andres Guardado — who has been a mainstay of the Mexican national team for years — only confirmed the work ethic of his teammate and hopes that a dream move becomes a reality for Lozano in the near future.

“It makes me very proud to say he is a kid that is very centered, despite everything he is going through,” said Guardado after Saturday’s 2-1 win over South Korea. “He is conscious that he has to continue like he’s not achieved anything.”

“He’s the same kid I met the first time he came with us,” continued Guardado. “Hopefully he stays like that and the rumors about a possible transfer to a big team become reality. It would be marvelous, he’s a great teammate.”

Video: Salah lob has Egypt off and running in first half

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Egypt’s run at the World Cup didn’t go according to plan, but the Pharaohs are looking in control on Monday.

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Mohamed Salah‘s second goal of the tournament has given the Egyptians a 1-0 lead over Saudi Arabia in their Group A finale.

After a Saudi giveaway in the attacking half of the field, Salah latched onto a beautiful long ball from Abdallah Said, before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem.

Video: Suarez gives Uruguay early lead over hosts Russia

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It only took Uruguay 10 minutes to break through, and the South American side could be on its way to capturing a third consecutive victory at the 2018 World Cup.

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Barcelona star Luis Suarez scored his second goal of the tournament on Monday, as the veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead early on against hosts Russia.

Suarez stepped up for a free kick just outside the penalty area, and slotted the ball brilliantly past the Russia goalkeeper at his near post.

Both teams have already advanced out of Group A after winning their first two matches, however, Monday’s victor (if there is one) will likely decide who tops the group.

Argentine players likely selecting lineup for Nigeria match

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The Albiceleste entered Russia among the favorites to win the World Cup, but now Argentina is on the brink of disaster and possibly crashing out of the group stage.

Through two Group D matches, Argentina sits on one point, and needs a victory over Nigeria to have a shot at advancing to the knockout phase.

Drastic changes appear to be coming for the CONMEBOL nation, after relations with manager Jorge Sampaoli have soured significantly over the last week-and-a-half.

Rumors have suggested that Lionel Messi and the elder players in the squad will select the starting XI for Argentina’s do-or-die fixture on Tuesday, with Sampaoli simply staying on as manager to avoid further embarrassment to the federation.

Sampaoli is expected to still be on the sidelines for the match, though.

Meanwhile, Argentine television outlet TNT Sports LA revealed a potential lineup ahead of Tuesday’s Group D finale against Nigeria.

The starting XI, if true, would feature four changes from the Albiceleste’s 3-0 defeat to Croatia last Thursday, including the introduction of River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani for Chelsea’s Willy Caballero.