Artistic display of Africa’s brand of football is scheduled to take centre stage in various stadia across the continent this weekend, as top African teams seek to outwit one another in the 2014 world cup qualifier playoffs. The fixtures couldn’t be tougher than this on the continent. Only five tickets are available and ten teams have fought their way to this stage where the winners over the two legs of the five ties will grab the ticket to represent Africa next summer in Brazil.
Top of the scintillating fixtures is the battle between two African super powers: Ghana VS Egypt. The Black stars have been to the world cup twice, both times where they got to the second round in 2006 and 2010 respectively. The world will foreverl recall the shattered emotions of Asamoh Gyan as his team succumbed to superior fire-power of Uruguay in South in 20100 in a match they were so close to winning. The pharaohs of Egypt have also been to the world cup on two occasions. They became the first African team to play in the world cup in 1934. It took them 57 years to make their second appearance in Italia 90 where they again failed to win a match or make it out of the group stage. The Pharaohs have since then been somewhat of local champions; winning the nations cup four times between 1998 and 2010 and failing to make an appearance on the global stage. American Coach, Bob Bradley will attempt to write his name on the annals of Egyptian football by using the football brand to bring succour to this crisis-ridden country but he faces a daunting task against the Black Stars who always give more than 100% whenever they don their national colours. The first leg takes place on Tuesday inside the Baba Yara Stadium in Accra!
Next on the pile is the battle between the Elephants and the Teranga Lions (Ivory Coast vs Senegal). The Elephants made their first world cup appearance in 2006 and continued the streak in 2010 but failed to make it past the group stages on both occasions. This present set of talented Elephants have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in African football but are still regarded as perennial under achievers as they have not been able to rule the continent, losing two Cup of Nations finals in six years. This fixture will be more of a war due to the fracas that trailed the Elephants’ victory over the Teranga Lions during the 2013 cup of Nations qualification playoffs. 1700 security operatives with 18 checkpoints have been installed in and outside the 50,000 capacity Houphouet Biogny Stadium venue of Saturday’s match. The Teranga Lions will travel to Abidjan hoping to make a mark that would put them in a good stead for their second world cup appearance; their first and only appearance was one the whole of Africa was proud of in 2002 when they stunned the world by beating the defending champions (France) and making it to the quarter finals becoming only the second African team to do so behind Cameroon.
Tunisia will this weekend host Cameroon in another thrilling fixture. The Olympic stadium in Rades is expected to be filled to the brim on Sunday as the Carthage Eagles seek their fifth world cup appearance having participated in Argentina 78, France 98, Japan& Korea 2002 and Germany 2006. Having the most World Cup appearance on the continent, Cameroon cuts the image of a sleeping giant having missed out on the last two Cup of Nations. The indomitable Lions showcased the beauty of the African brand of football to the world when they defeated the then world champions, Argentina in the opening match of Italia 90; going on to reach the quarter finals where they lost in that memorable match to England. The lions will be sweating it out in Rades come Sunday with the hope of making their seventh world cup appearance and bearing in mind the intrigues involved whenever you play teams from the northern part of Africa in their backyard. It looks likea duel between two sleeping giants of African Football but one will signal its resurrection with the defeat of another over the two legs.
One of the two teams seeking their World Cup berth among the ten will attempt to take that bold step this Saturday…the Stallions of Burkina Faso. The Stallions lost the 2013 Cup of Nations final to the Super Eagles of Nigeria but their performance attested to the tremendous development of football on the continent of Africa. Come Saturday, fans in the 40,000 capacity Stade du 4-Aaut will be cheering their Stallions with the hope of grabbing their first world cup ticket when they face the Desert warriors of Algeria. The warriors from the north have three world cup appearances to their credit, making their debut at Espana 82 followed by the one in Mexico 86 but spent ten years wandering in their desert before making their third appearance in South Africa 2010, snatching the ticket from Egypt in one of the fiercest matches in football history. This is one tie that could go either way and Coach Paul Put will keep echoing that to his Stallions as it could take years before they could probably get another chance such as this to appear at the world.
Though current African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, got the easiest draw (on paper)they will be out to prove bookmakers right come Sunday when they take on the Wayla Antelopes of Ethiopia. Seeking their first world berth, the Antelopes on the other hand, will be out to defy the odds having surprised the continent by topping the group that had South Africa as favourites. Stopping the Eagles from clinching their fifth world cup ticket won’t be easy but the Antelopes will be banking on the support of their vociferous supporters in the 35,000 capacity stadium in the heart of Addis Ababa to create an upset.
The outcome of these fixtures will go a long way to determine Africa’s representatives in the 2014 world cup. The stage is set for African football gladiators to display the tenacity, resilience, skill and glamour that constitute the robust nature of African brand of football.