By Ralph Geeplay
When Bob Bradley and his brave Pharaohs jet into the Kumasi Stadium on October 15, he will be facing a Kwesi James Appiah squad that has seen success under an African coach and that now has Michael Essien back in the fold and the ever dependable hit man Asamoah Gyan.
To complicate things for the Pharaohs, they have not played at any of the World Cup tournaments since 1990, last held in Italy, while their Ghana counterparts have been there the last two times 2006 and 2010. What stands between Bradley and his men comes down to the Black Stars, a repeat in Rustenburg, Southern Africa when Ghana thwarted Bradley hopes from qualifying to the semi-finals, then as the American coach.
Pundits say while Egypt’s squad is basically made of domestic talents with Al Ahly and Zamalek players forming the primacy of the team, this however has not dented the enthusiasm that Bradley and the Pharaohs have shown during their qualifying campaign. “We did a lot of work. We studied Ghana well; we respect them, but at the same time we are a good team,” said Bradley to the Bleacher Report.
“We must be smart in Kumasi. We need to play with the right mentality; intellectually but with confidence.” The Pharaohs and their American coach despite lacking a domestic league due the turmoil in Egypt that saw political revolutions the past years and violent domestic league fracas that saw 79 dead, did manage to qualify 100 percent on top of group G, by winning all of their matches.
Determinedly, they have not let the said events of Port Said (Stadium) and the politically unstable situation dissuade the team’s zeal. Bradley’s players have concentrated well and performed their duties on the football pitch determined to go to Brazil despite all their troubles.
Head-to-head records show that both countries are football giants with Egypt winning most of the duels. The North Africans have won nine encounters while Ghana has taken home four while five of the meetings ended up in a draw.
Depending on who you want to call the favorites, this match could be a hard toss up, since both teams are respectable African sides with Egypt enjoying more continental success than any African side in history, winning the African cup a record seven times, but today though, Ghana is that African side that is on the rise. The Ghanaians are proving that local coaches can succeed in an Africa that fancy foreign coaches, with Kwesi James Appiah at the helm and dugout— Ghana won five of six matches and did score more goals than any other African team during their qualifying run to the playoffs. Eleven different players are credited for the total of 18 goals scored by the Ghanaian national team in the qualifiers, an impressive feat that says scoring options are not limited when Appiah’s lads are pushing the ball.
African football analysts say between 2009 and 2013, the Black Stars of Ghana played Egypt thrice with each side winning a piece of the pie while a third game ended blank. This confirms, say football watchers, that the Tuesday game will be an entertaining thriller. Billed for November 19, the return leg will likely take place in a neutral venue as requested by Ghanaian Football Association (GFA) following recent violence in Egypt, but it is unlikely the Football governing body, FIFA will change the original Cairo venue. It has been a long time since Egyptians saw their beloved Pharaohs in action, plus they need the home crowd behind them as an added advantage.
Bob Bradley: “We know Ghana are a strong team and we are focused on the first leg in Kumasi. Our staff has worked very hard on preparations for Ghana and we know their team very well.
”Kwesi James Appiah: “The group has the ability in terms of goal-scoring… we must keep our balance and improve. We meet a good side but must cause them problems to get what we plan for.”
The Squad Egypt
Goalkeepers: Sherif Elkramy (Al Ahly) Ahmed El Shenawy (Al Masry) Mohamed
Defenders: Ahmed Fathy (Al Ahly) , Ahmed El Mohamady (Hull City) , Hazem Emam (Zamalek) , Wael Gomaa (Al Ahly) , Mohamed Nagub (Al Ahly) , Rami Rabiea (Al Ahly) , Sayed Moawad (Al Ahly) , Mohamed Abdul Shafy “Zamalek”.
Midfielders: Ahmed Sheded (Al Ahly) , Amr El Sulayia (Ismaily) , Hossam Ashour (Al Ahly) , Hossam Ghaly (Lierse SK) , Mohamed el Neny (FC Basel) , Hosny Rabo (Ismaily) , Abdul Razak Shikabala (Zamalek), Mohamed AbuTrika “Al Ahly”, Waleed Suliman “Al Ahly” ,Abdulallah al Saied “Al Ahly”.
Strikers: Ahmed Eid (Zamalek), Amr zaki (Al Salmyia) , Mohamed Salah (FC Basel) Mahmoud Kahraba (Luzern) , Mohamed Gedo (Hull City).
The squad Ghana
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Adam Kwarasey (Stromgodset, Norway), Richard Kingson (Doxa Katokopias, Cyprus)
Defenders : Samuel Inkoom (Dnipro, Ukraine), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege, Belgium), David Addy (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal), Baba Abdul Rahman (Greuther Furth Germany), John Boye (Rennes, France), Jerry Akaminko (Eskisehirspor, Turkey), Rashid Sumaila (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa),
Mohammed Awal (Maritzburg United, South Africa).
Midfielders : Michael Essien (Chelsea), Emmanuel Frimpong (Arsenal), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang Badu (Udinese), Kevin Prince Boateng (Schalke), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan), Christian Atsu (Vitesse Arnhem), Andre Ayew (Marseille)
Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Abdul Majeed Waris (Spartak Moscow), Jordan Ayew (Marseille), Mahatma Otoo (Sogndal,)
Key player Egypt: Mohamed Gedo
Key player Ghana: Asamoah Gyan
Prediction: Egypt is that good and focused and Bob Bradley is a tested international asset. As the only American trainer coaching any notable national team anywhere in the world and especially in a place called Africa that has a bias for European tacticians, the Egyptian FA must be credited their trust in him was not wasted. If Bradley pulls this off, expect him to be snatched up by a first rate European coach after the world cup. Bradley has proven that American coaches have quality, his team is young and vibrant with a mix of older veterans he called up. This could put the Black Stars to bed if they misstep, but give Ghana their due two cents, they have a domestic coach, and the veteran midfield maestro Michael Essien is back. Plus, the young guns on the Black Stars team all feature for top European clubs. Ghana qualifies.
Ralph Geeplay is editor of the Liberian listener www.Liberianlistener.com