Lose one and you are out: plucky Bradley leaves Egypt empty-handed

Hatem Maher, Thursday 21 Nov 2013

Falling at the last hurdle, Bob Bradley fails to achieve his primary task of steering Egypt to a World Cup place for the first time since 1990, with a solitary defeat costing him what would have been a fairytale journey to Brazil

Bob Bradley
Egypt's head coach Bob Bradley of the US Looks on during their 2014 World Cup qualifying second leg playoff soccer match against Ghana at Air Defence "30 June" stadium in Cairo, 19 November, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's political turmoil might have hampered Bob Bradley in a sense but there was still an apparent advantage: the American coach guided the Pharaohs to the last phase of the World Cup qualifiers after making the most of the absence of the media hype that usually accompanies the team in such journeys.

Incessant protests, recurring clashes and a political upheaval have been dominating the everyday discussions of Egyptians since Bradley took charge of the national team, succeeding highly-successful boss Hassan Shehata in November 2011.

Egypt's football supporters hardly put pressure on him to succeed where his predecessors failed, bearing in mind that a variety of problems plaguing domestic football make it very difficult to realize a long-held dream of ending a barren World Cup qualifying run.

Missing out on the Nations Cup for the second consecutive time, with Egypt failing to qualify for the 2012 edition under Shehata and 2013 under Bradley, barely made headlines as hopes and expectations were naturally at a low ebb.  

But the serene, soft-spoken Bradley passed the initial World Cup test with flying colors. Egypt defied the odds in the group stage, garnering maximum 18 points from six games to set up a mouthwatering clash against Ghana.

This is when they were given a reality check, just when the media and fan frenzy were back. A humiliating 6-1 first-leg defeat in Kumasi meant the dream to end a 24-year wait for a World Cup appearance was effectively over.

"It was a difficult day, and many factors came together. Certainly nerves, emotions, the field, the referee," Bradley commented on the stunning loss.

"For me, most of all the players who love Egypt so much. I think the pressure of everything that has happened in this country in the last two years was great on this day. When you put all that together it's too much."

Playing merely to restore some pride, Egypt won 2-1 in Cairo in the second leg, two days after Bradley appeared to be sending a farewell message to the fans in the pre-match news conference.

"We were unlucky. We won seven out of eight matches in the qualifiers, but just one game ended our World Cup dream," he added.


Bradley has encountered a series of obstacles since taking over from Shehata, ranging from the downward spiral of some prominent players who formed the backbone of Shehata’s successful setup to a complete halt of domestic football activities.

The likes of Essam El-Hadary, Amr Zaki, Mohamed Zidan, Emad Meteb and Hosni Abd-Rabou  were sidelined for long spells for different reasons, restricting the options of Bradley and prompting him to look for local yet inexperienced talents to plug that gap.

He was not really given the chance to do so. Intermittent league games over two seasons meant his options were too limited, and the cancellation of two successive Premier Leagues had him scratching his head.

“Bradley cannot be blamed alone. Yes, he did some mistakes, especially with regard to his tactical choices, but the entire football system here should be blamed for the failure to reach the World Cup,” football pundit Khaled Bayoumi told Ahram Online.

“For example, the Egyptian Football Association could not even arrange any high-profile friendly games during the football stoppage. It was very difficult to prepare the team during all those problems.”

Bradley, who was also deprived of the advantage of playing home games at the usual passionate Cairo Stadium due to lingering security concerns, with most of the competitive matches taking place in Alexandria behind closed doors, still came through that unscathed.

He moulded a young team around veterans Mohamed Abou-Treika and Wael Gomaa and, although Egypt did not play eye-catching football, their pragmatic approach paid off with easy wins over Guinea, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers.

Bradley might be mostly remembered for the hammering in Kumasi but, in all, his record remains impressive. Egypt won 23 matches, drew six and lost eight in 37 matches under his guidance.

“We can’t say that he has failed, this is harsh. But at the end he had a solitary target that he did not achieve, this is all what can we say,” Bayoumi added.

Reports suggest Bradley will be replaced by a local coach as the search continues for a man with a magic World Cup formula.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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