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“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Monday, September 16, 2013

2014 World Cup playoff draw Africa - Monster ties await

The Prize
Brazil 2014
The draw for Africa’s final 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying round is complete. The result is five monster ties.

The final playoff round features the ten winners of the group stage of qualifying, and although the format has faced criticism from some, it has guaranteed the drama and excitement of five epic ties.

None is bigger than Ghana versus Egypt, a clash of two countries that share 11 Africa Cup of Nations titles between them.

It is a true heavyweight clash. Ghana’s Black Stars are chasing their third consecutive appearance at the World Cup (after a last 16 showing in 2006 and a quarterfinal in 2010). Egypt, Africa’s record champions with seven crowns, is looking to return to the world showpiece for the first time since Italia‘90.

There’s also a fascinating West African derby to look forward to as top-rated Ivory Coast face rejuvenated Senegal. The tie is a rematch of last October's Afcon qualifier in Dakar. On that occasion, the match had to be stopped after 14 minutes and the result was a lengthy home ban for Senegal.

The ban will have lapsed by the time the two meet again, but the rivalry will be intense as ever.

Elsewhere, African champions Nigeria have been drawn against Ethiopia in another intriguing prospect. The Super Eagles are a juggernaut under Stephen Keshi, but Ethiopia is arguably the continent’s most enterprising side today and is formidable opposition at home. Ethiopia will also be spurred on by the promise of a first-ever World Cup appearance.

When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers
Egypt v Ghana
Another team looking to secure its World Cup debut is Burkina Faso, and they will face Algeria while two more powerhouses, Tunisia and Cameroon, face off for Africa’s final ticket to Brazil.

World football’s governing body, Fifa, has asked the ten playoff countries to nominate the dates, venues and kickoffs for the ties by Friday. The first legs will be played between October 11 and 15 with the return games between November 15 and 19.

It should be interesting.

Playoff draw in full:
(First leg hosts first)
Ivory Coast v Senegal
Ethiopia v Nigeria
Tunisia v Cameroon
Ghana v Egypt
Burkina Faso v Algeria

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because, quite simply, life is way too short.

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