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Egypt's American soccer coach goes from hero to scapegoat

CAIRO -- Americans are not at all popular in Egypt these days. And now, perhaps the only one who was has suffered a spectacular fall from grace.

Bob Bradley, the American head coach of Egypt’s national soccer team, the Pharaohs, was drubbed in Egyptian media after the team suffered a crushing defeat in a World Cup qualifying match, losing 6-1 to Ghana.

In a withering commentary in Wednesday editions of the Shorouk newspaper, widely read sports columnist Ayman Badrah described Bradley’s performance as unfocused, inflexible and “confused.”

Tuesday’s away match in Ghana was avidly followed by soccer-mad Egyptians, who clustered around TVs in cafes and living rooms on the first day of this week’s Eid al-Adha holiday. Streets were nearly deserted during the match, and social media buzzed with every twist and turn of play.

Bradley, who had become an unlikely national hero after he presided over a string of victories leading up to the qualifying rounds, apologized to the Egyptian people in a post-game news conference.

“I know that reaching the World Cup is the dream of all Egyptians, and I failed to realize that dream,” he said.

Egypt’s tense politics make their way into almost every aspect of daily life, and the match was no exception. Many Egyptian fans were furious when some in the Ghana stands held up a banner denouncing the coup that toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July and installed a military-backed government. Ghanaian authorities seized the banner, fearing an outbreak of violence.

The defeat made it almost impossible for Egypt to qualify for the World Cup -- a feat it has not achieved since 1990. To do so now, the team would need a resounding win in a follow-up match at home next month. One commentator who goes by the Twitter handle @TheBigPharaoh tweeted that Morsi had a better chance at reinstatement to the presidency than the team did of qualifying now.

Others took the opportunity for a sly dig at the government’s tireless use of official media outlets to silence critics and promote the authorities’ agenda.

"I don’t know what you guys are talking about," another tweet read. "Egypt won on state TV."

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