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.