Ghana draws Egypt in decisive WCup playoffs
CAIRO (AP) - Egypt must eliminate 2010 quarterfinalist Ghana to make it to the World Cup for the first time in more than 20 years after the countries were drawn Monday to face each other in Africa's decisive playoffs.
Top-ranked African team Ivory Coast will meet Senegal in the two-leg series starting next month to decide which one of those West African powers makes it to Brazil.
In the other matchups: Ethiopia will face African champion Nigeria as it attempts to reach the World Cup for the first time; Tunisia will play Cameroon after the North Africans were re-instated to the playoffs in place of Cape Verde, which was thrown out by FIFA for fielding an ineligible player in a crucial win over the Tunisians; and African Cup finalist Burkina Faso, also hoping to play at football's main event for the first time, was drawn against Algeria.
The first-leg games will be played between October 11-15 and the second legs a month later. The playoffs will decide Africa's five representatives at the World Cup and end the two-year qualifying competition, which started with 52 hopefuls.
Egypt, a record seven-time African champion, last went to the World Cup in 1990. But despite the constant distraction of violent unrest at home, former United States coach Bob Bradley led the Egyptians to the 10-team playoffs with a perfect run in group qualifying, winning six out of six games.
"We are the strongest team in the group. We are not afraid of confronting Ghana,'' Bradley told reporters at the draw.
Ghana was the best-performing African team at the last World Cup in South Africa, when it beat the Bradley-led United States in the second round, and will be at home in the first leg.
Authorities haven't yet decided if fans will be allowed in to the second leg in Egypt, where recent national team games have been held behind closed doors and in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna, away from the country's unsettled major cities.
Ivory Coast was pitted against Senegal about a year after a violent riot at a stadium in Dakar when the teams met in African Cup qualifying. Ivory Coast is Africa's No. 1 team and the World Cup would likely be the final international tournament for captain and veteran striker Didier Drogba.
Senegal reached the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002, one of only three African countries to achieve that feat, but hasn't appeared on the biggest stage since then. The Ivorians will be at home first.
Ethiopia emerged from a long spell of underperforming to play at the African Cup of Nations this year, but faces a tough draw against continental champion Nigeria, which won the Cup of Nations in South Africa in February. Ethiopia will host the first leg.
Tunisia was given a second chance at the World Cup after Cape Verde forfeited its victory in the final round of group games for playing Fernando Varela when he should have been suspended. The Tunisians will be led by interim coach Ruud Krol after Nabil Maaloul quit in disgust at his team's 2-0 home loss to Cape Verde before Tunisia was reinstated by FIFA.
Tunisia will host Cameroon first, which scraped through qualifying over Libya and will be without all-time leading scorer Samuel Eto'o for the playoffs after the Chelsea striker retired from the national team.
Burkina Faso surprisingly reached the final of the African Cup this year and continued that momentum into World Cup qualifying. Algeria will travel to Burkina Faso next month for the opening match.
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