14 September 2013

Africa: World Cup Qualifier Playoffs - Eagles May Face Cameroon, Senegal or Egypt

After six rounds of matches, the boys have been separated from the men and the best ten teams that will compete for the African five tickets to the 2014 FIFA World Cup have emerged. By Monday, September 16, a draw for final playoffs that will determine teams to will fly the continent's flag at the quadrennial world soccer showpiece will be held at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) headquarters in Cairo, Egypt.

After last weekend's final leg games of the second round qualifier, consisting of 10 groups of 4 teams each, African champions, Nigeria alongside the best ranked team on the continent, Cote d'Ivoire,

Algeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Senegal and surprise team-Cape Verde made it through to the playoffs to determine the five (5) African representatives at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The draw which will be conducted by a FIFA team inclusive of FIFA director of Competitions, Mustapha Fahmy and Head of FIFA World Cup & Olympic Qualifiers Competitions, Gordon Savic, will make use of last FIFA monthly rankings released on Thursday to determine the seeding of the five highest ranked teams in one pot. The other five teams will be placed in another pot. There will be also a draw for each

match to determine which team plays host first. With 48 hours to the final playoff draw in Cairo, soccer administrators, coaches, players and fans-alike are already in apprehension.

All the ten teams to have come this far deserve to represent Africa at the Mundial but the pressure will be on the so called soccer giants, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Egypt and not forgetting the 2002 World Cup quarterfinalists, Senegal to be at the World Cup. The world would definitely want to see African champions, Nigeria, Ghana which was the African best team at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Eyes will also be looking out for the likes of Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Drogba and co from Cote d'Ivoire in Brazil. Thursday's world ranking released by the world soccer ruling body, FIFA placed Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Cape Verde in pot one of the draw, leaving pot two to Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Senegal and Cameroun. This means Nigeria's Super Eagles will not be drawn against their West African arch rivals Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Algeria and Cape Verde. But the Coach Stephen Keshi tutored squad could face Cameroon, seven-time African champions, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. Based on the above, Super Eagles no doubt face a daunting task of qualifying for Brazil 2014 World Cup as Coach Stephen Keshi and his boys could be drawn against Cameroun, Egypt or Senegal.

Not even Ethiopia or Burkina Faso will be a push over, the 4-1 thrashing of Burkina Faso in a friendly match on Tuesday at the Ahmadu Bello stadium, Kaduna notwithstanding. Not even Coach Stephen Keshi himself will see Ethiopia or Burkina Faso as weak opponents. Still on preference opponent for the Eagles, North Africans, especially Egypt will be a big threat to Super Eagles any day. The two sides last met at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola which ended 3-1 in favour of Egypt. Senegal and Cameroon are also not good customers for the African champions in the round leather game. According Paul Bassey, "Cameroun any day is a danger to Nigeria. They have our number. They have a way of rising to the occasion whenever the foe is Nigeria and history can attest to this. I prefer we avoid them, let them take their wahala go."

Nigeria qualified for the playoffs on the back of a 2-0 win over Malawi at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar, Cross River State last weekend. The African champions needed to avoid defeat to move into the final stage of qualifying and the Super Eagles made no mistake as Emmanuel Emenike beat the offside trap to open the scoring in the first half injury-time before Victor Moses' placed a penalty six minutes after the restart to seal the win against opponents who never threatened to clip the 'Super Eagles' wings. Minnows Cape Verde brew a shocker by eliminating Tunisia from the World Cup Africa zone qualifying competition on Saturday after winning 2-0 in Rades. The home side Tunisia needed just a draw to win the group by goals from Platini and Nhuck in the first half to give the Blue Sharks the three points that saw them through. Earlier in the day Ethiopia had come from behind to defeat Central African Republic 2-1 in Congo and finish top of Group A with 13 points, two more than 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa, whose 4-1 home win over Botswana in Durban proved futile.

Prejuce Nakoulma scored nine minutes after half-time to earn Cup of Nations runners-up Burkina Faso a 1-0 Group E win over Gabon in Ouagadougou and top place. Long-time leaders Congo Brazzaville needed maximum points in Niger, but could manage only a 2-2 draw after falling behind twice to goals from Mahamane Cisse and Daouda Kamilou.

Fabrice Nguessi levelled four minutes after coming off the bench and Ulrich Kapolongo grabbed the second equaliser for the 'Red Devils' 14 minutes from time. In another closely fought encounter in Group J, Senegal left it late against Uganda which was down to ten men for the entire second half after Godfrey Walisimbi saw red in the 36th minute. Senegal scored a late winner in the 84th minute through Sadio Mane to clinch top spot in the group and ensure passage to the playoffs.

Cameroon is at home to Libya Sunday and a win for either country would take them through to the final round with the draw scheduled for September 16 in Cairo. Ivory Coast had already won Group C, and finished their campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Morocco. Youssef El Arabi put the visitors in front but an 83rd minute Didier Drogba penalty earned a point. In the same group, Gambia beat Tanzania 2-0 through two goals from Mustapha Jarju. Ghana, Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast had already secured their place in the next stage.

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