Bradley works miracle, leads Stabaek to European qualification

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Bob Bradly is a miracle worker. And that is probably an understatement.

On Sunday he led Norwegian minnows Stabaek to European qualification, as De blaa beat Start 3-2 to guarantee at least a third-placed finish in the Norwegian top-flight.

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Reaching the Europa League is an incredible achievement for Bradley and his talented backroom staff — which include Tomasz Kaczmarek and Jan Peder Jalland as coaches and sporting director Andre Inge Olsen — given the limited resources available to him at Stabaek and with his contract up in the next few weeks, it caps off a wonderful two years since he left the Egyptian national team and arrived as the first American coach to ever manage in a top-flight league in Europe.

Bradley, 57, told PST in September that he isn’t sure what the future holds and despite Stabaek holding talks with him about a new deal, it is widely believed the former U.S. national team head coach will now move on to his next challenge. He has been linked with many jobs in Norway, England, Germany and France in recent months, the most intriguing of which seems to be Le Harve in Ligue 2. However things pan out, Bradley has helped the profile of American coaches grow in Europe as his exploits in Norway have not gone unnoticed.

[ SPORTSWORLD: JPW visits Bradley in Norway ]

ICYMI, last summer I took a trip to Norway and followed Bradley and his team around at their modest home at Nadderud Stadion as well as on a road trip to play Norwegian powerhouses Rosenborg. Read all about that here on NBC SportsWorld. In Norway he has been lauded as the “greatest manager there has ever been” in the top-flight as well as often appearing on national TV, speaking at national coaching conferences and becoming a benchmark for managing at a time when the nation has seen an upsurge in success both domestically and with the national team.

Heading into their final game of the season the situation is simple for Stabaek. If they beat Bodø/Glimt and Stromsgodset lose or draw against Vålerenga, they will finish in second place and grab the silver medal as the runners up. When it comes to European qualification, finishing in second spot also has a big advantage over finishing in third. Whoever finishes second in the Tippeligaen qualifies for the second round of Europa League qualifying for the 2016-17 season, while the third place team has to start in the first round of qualifying.

[ MORE: Bradley chats success at Stabaek ]

Not much of a difference, but still, a second place finish means only three home and home ties would have to be won to reach the group stages of the Europa League instead of four if Stabaek was to finish in third. Stabaek last qualified for the Europa League in three successive years from 2009-13 but lost in the qualifying rounds on each occasion. The closest they came to making the group stage was in 2009-10 when they lost to Spanish giants Valencia 7-1 on aggregate in the play-off round. The Baerum side also reached the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League in the same season but that run of three-straight runs to Europe came amid a huge cash injection into the squad which was unsustainable and ultimately led to Stabaek almost going bankrupt, plus their eventual relegation to the second-tier of Norwegian soccer.

[ MORE: Tracking Bradley’s Norwegian adventure ]

Bradley’s achievements over the past few years usurp those previous qualifications to Europe Stabaek had. No doubt. The New Jersey native took charge of the club on a shoestring budget in early 2014 just after they had been promoted back to Tippeligaen and in each of the last two years Stabaek have been tipped for relegation. Under Bradley’s stewardship they finished an impressive ninth last season — despite losing several players to bigger clubs and having to get creative with the transfer market with extremely limited resources — after leading the way in the early months. This season they overcame a complete roster overhaul, and endured similar issues with losing key players mid-season, to fight tooth and nail with giants Rosenborg for the title as well as reaching the semifinal of the Norwegian cup in both campaigns.

The first-ever American to coach in a European top-flight has exceeded all expectations and he should be lauded and applauded for doing so. Whether he stays with Stabaek or moves onto the next challenge, we will have to wait and see. Whatever happens, Bradley’s achievements at Stabaek have been nothing short of astounding.

Haiti stuns Costa Rica to claim Group B at Gold Cup

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Poetic justice, put it in a Song.

Haiti’s Djimy Alexis made up for his early own goal by scoring a deserved winner as Haiti won Group B of the Gold Cup with an upset of Costa Rica on Monday.

[ ROUNDUPS: AFCON | Copa America ]

Los Ticos got everything they could handle from the upstart Gombey Warriors, who are now 3-0 on the tournament, and the World Cup mainstays tossed aside their early lead to meet Mexico in the quarterfinals.

Haiti will challenge Canada in the quarters, guaranteeing the semifinals an intriguing participant.

An early own goal had Costa Rica in control, but Duckens Nason’ 16th international goal was a part of a hard charge from the Haitians in the second half.

The other match saw Bermuda earn a 2-0 win over Nicaragua via goals from Lejuan Simmons and QPR’s Nakhi Wells. That gives the Gombey Warriors a 1-2 record while dropping Nicaragua to 0-3.

Bermuda was ranked 174th by FIFA to Nicaragua’s 129, but that will certainly change next month.

AFCON wrap: Diaby’s sensational rip highlights trio of matches

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The Africa Cup of Nations said hello to six more competitors on Monday, with a thrilling goal amongst the eight tallied across the competitions in Egypt.

[ MORE: Copa America roundup ]


Mali 4-1 Mauritania

Two different men named Adama Traore — neither of them the Wolves winger — joined Moussa Marega on the score sheet but it’s difficult to describe the class and small margins that defined the tournament’s goal of the day.

Sporting Lisbon’s Abdoulay Diaby somehow got this shot off through two defenders and into the upper reaches of the goal to open the scoring in the three-goal win for Mali, which is having some summer when you take into account the U-20 World Cup.

Ivory Coast 1-0 South Africa

There were only 13 total attempts in the game, and Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija scored the lone goal of a tournament opening win for Les Elephants.

Tunisia 1-1 Angola

A draw was probably fair, as Youssef Msakni’s first half penalty was met by Djalma Campos’ late goal to split the spoils in Group E.

Copa America roundup: Uruguay tops Chile; Full knockout bracket

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Ecuador and Japan drew to allow Paraguay to sew up the final knockout round spot, sending Miguel Almiron and Co. into a match-up with Brazil.

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And Uruguay rode Edinson Cavani’s goal into the other side of the bracket, moving ahead of Chile in a tight match.

Ecuador 1-1 Japan

There was a lot to like in a match with 30-plus shots and the ultimate prize of a match-up with Brazil on Thursday in Porto Alegre.

Shoya Nakajima put the Asian side ahead a quarter-hour into the match, but Angel Mena provided an equalizer before halftime to put both sides in danger of failure to reach the knockout rounds.

Chile 0-1 Uruguay

Cavani scored for the second time this tournament as Uruguay claimed first place in Group A and a knockout round meeting with Peru.

Cavani’s deftly flicked header of a Jonathan Rodriguez pass pushed Uruguay above Chile, which had won both of its group matches and now meets Colombia on Friday.

Knockout round schedule

June 27
Brazil v. Paraguay

June 28
Venezuela v. Argentina
Colombia v. Chile

June 29
Uruguay v. Peru

July 2
Brazil/Paraguay v. Venezuela/Argentina
Colombia/Chile v. Uruguay/Peru

July 6
Third place playoff

July 7
Final

Norwich City adds Switzerland international Drmic on free transfer

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Norwich City has added a new star striker to a unit which produced 93 goals in the Championship last season.

Josip Drmic will join Swiss national teammate Timm Klose with the Canaries for the next three seasons, hoping to bring his Bundesliga and international experience to a Premier League safety campaign.

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Drmic turns 27 next month, and scored two goals in five appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. He has 31 goals and seven assists in 107 Bundesliga appearances between Gladbach, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, and Nurnberg.

Coach Daniel Farke got 30 goals from target forward Teemu Pukki, who plays a similar role to Drmic and has plenty of top flight experience with Celtic and Schalke amongst others.

Drmic can also operate on the wing, usually left over right, and has featured in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. From Canaries.co.uk:

“I’m going to do everything and give 100% on the pitch. I will be ready to give everything for the club. My job is scoring but I also want to help my team and help us be successful.

“When I first came to Norwich, the first thing I noticed was how kind everybody was. It’s given me a lot of positive energy and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Between Pukki and Drmic, Norwich can have faith that its well-prepared to have an answer up top.