Egypt couldn't conjure up the miracle comeback they needed to reach the 2014 World Cup, but the Pharaohs restored a measure of pride and gave their home fans something to cheer with a 2-1 defeat of Ghana at the 30 June (Air Defense) Stadium in Cairo on Tuesday.
But despite their inability to erase a five-goal aggregate deficit from the first leg, the Pharaohs manager and former US national team coach Bob Bradley – who seems certain to depart his post shortly as his adopted nation stomaches another painful qualifying failure that lengthens their World Cup drought to more than a quarter-century – can exit with his head held high.
Egypt's chances of advancing past the Black Stars in the two-legged World Cup playoff were effectively doomed by last month's 6-1 mauling in Kumasi, Ghana. But the home side started brightly enough in Cairo, controlling the play early on and notching the opening goal with 24 minutes gone as playmaker Mohamed Aboutrika's free kick found Amr Zaki in the penalty box for a 1-0 lead.
The Pharaohs kept up the pressure and on several occasions nearly broke through for what would have been a momentous second goal before halftime.
But Ghana weathered the storm and by the time Mohamed "Gedo" Nagy doubled the hosts' lead in the final minutes, it was too late to fuel the improbable goal rush they needed.
Asamoah Gyan fed Kevin-Prince Boateng – two names which will be all too familiar to Bradley and USMNT fans from the 2010 World Cup – to give Ghana a consolation goal in the dying moments and spark celebrations among their traveling supporters and millions of devotees back home.
The match marked Egypt's first true home game in front of their own supporters in two years, with Bradley's squad forced to play in empty stadiums and neutral locations due to their nation's political unrest and deadly crowd troubles.
The Pharaohs were one of only a precious few nations in the world to roll to an undefeated record in the group stage of African qualifying, but it did them little good in the end as the impressive Black Stars punched tickets to their third straight World Cup.