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The one and only East and Central African representative in the two-leg playoffs, Ethiopia is to face current African champions Nigeria, with the first leg taking place in Addis Ababa on the 13th of October.
Seven-time African champions Egypt are gearing up to play four-time African champions Ghana and the game is considered to be the clash of the titans, and the continent is sure to miss one of its two football flagships at the Brazil World Cup final.
For Ethiopia, meeting any of the seeded teams like Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia and Algeria at this stage makes no difference at all, because it is the lowest ranked team of all, and is just waking up from about three decades of slumber. This is the first time ever for Ethiopia and surprise African Nations Cup finalists Burkina Faso to reach a World Cup playoff stage, which had the continent’s heavyweights praying for a lucky draw to play one of them rather than face a tough encounter against Egypt, Cameroon or Senegal.
Underachievers Cote d’Ivoire host their fierce rivals Senegal with the first leg to be played on home turf, and luckily the return leg to be played on neutral ground, following a ban by FIFA on its stadiums last year. Didier Drogba and company are favoured to get through the playoff stage.
World Cup quarter finalist Ghana was handed a tough encounter against Egypt. However, Ghana rarely loses a match at home. The return leg in Egypt takes place in November on the Red Sea coast at a stadium that seats only twelve thousand, relieving some of the pressure on the Black Stars, However, the Ghanaians will have to wait until November to get a good night’s sleep. The only side to reach the playoff stage with hundred percent win record, Egypt has the capacity to take a usually complacent Ghana by surprise. “It is going to be a tough undertaking for both sides,” remarked the former USA coach Bradley, currently with the Pharaohs.
The other anxiously awaited clash is between seven-time World Cup qualifiers Cameroon who are facing Tunisia, a team which has yet to replace its sacked head coach following the 2-0 home defeat at the hands of tiny Cape Verde. The Blue Sharks lost their place in the playoffs for fielding an ineligible player.
African Nations Cup runner-ups Burkina Faso’s adversary is Algeria. Algeria’s national team is known to be strong, and with the first leg match to be played at Burkina Faso, Algeria hopes to grace Brazil with their presence at 2014 World Cup final.