JOHANNESBURG – While Ghana and reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions, Nigeria look good bets for a place in the Fifa World Cup in Brazil next year, nothing should be taken for granted.
Having thumped Egypt 6-1 in a contest many thought would be tricky for both sides, it will now take a miracle for the Black Stars to be denied a place in the finals in the Great Pele's home country.
The same applies to neighbours and African champions Nigeria who take a 2-1 win to Lagos against upstarts Ethiopia who have been the sensation of the qualification stages.
Soccer is a fun game though and crazy things have happened in this beautiful game.
For the first time in many months, Caf has allowed the Egyptian Football Federation to have spectators in the return leg meaning, the Black Stars will really feel the heat when they face the hostile crowd in the return leg.
That said, it will take a herculean effort and some porous play by Ghana to surrender such a healthy lead.
I don't see that happening.
From the onset, the Black Stars have always looked the most consistent side on the African continent and on current form, will be Africa's best bet of doing well at the World Cup next year.
They have an all round squad full of running and if they maintain the same momentum, might have a World Cup to remember.
They have a small issue of going to the land of the Pharaohs though and finish what should be an easy job. In life though, they always say never say never.
Neighbours Nigeria who have been on the up ever since winning the Afcon 2013, are also almost guaranteed a place in the Brazil fiesta. And with a huge contingent of Nigerians spread across the globe, the Super Eagles are guaranteed a good following in South America.
Ethiopia might have put up a brave fight in Addis Ababa but having lost the game at home, their task of reversing the result seems highly improbable.
Another side who have a scent of a ticket to Brazil is Ivory Coast. Having dispatched Senegal 3-1 in a one-sided affair in the first leg.
The Didier Drogba-captained side will most likely prove too strong for their neighbours in the neutral venue in Morocco's coastal city of Casablanca.
Ivory Coast have always flattered to deceive in major soccer tournaments and one hopes they do something, for a change, if they qualify for Brazil.
They have all the stars in the world but one tournament after the other, have always faltered when it matters most.
Matches involving Cameroon/Tunisia and Algeria/Burkina Faso, are still too close to call. Anything can happen on the day.
The Indomitable Lions will have home crowd advantage in the return leg having drawn 0-0 in the first leg. But of late the lions have somehow played like pussycats.
The Tunisians have nothing to lose and will go there with a mission to cause a major upset.
As for the Algeria/Burkina Faso game which ended with the hosts winning 3-2 in the first leg, looks like he who blinkers first will lose this one. Though on the basis of the first leg, the Desert Foxes looked hungrier than the Burkinabes, it is not advisable to rule out the talented side.
What it means is that if Burkina Faso and Cameroon pull off wins, all African representatives will come from the same region – West Africa.
People might question my geographical knowledge regarding Cameroon but mostly in soccer circles, they are considered Western as opposed to Central Africans.
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