On Friday 6 December, all eyes will be on Bahia, near Salvador in Brazil, as the world beams in on the Final Draw for the FIFA World Cup 2014.
The qualifiers have been immensely entertaining. Continents like Europe have seen great matches and big teams emerging. But some top players will be missing from the World Cup this term around. Players like Zlatan Ibrahimovicmh whose Sweden could not get past Portugal in the final play-off, Petr Cech, whose Czech Republic did not make it, among others.
In Africa, the most notable absence will be, yet again, Egypt – the home of the seat of football in Africa – a nation that has won a record SEVEN African Cup titles, including three in a row in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
It is amazing that a player like the much celebrated Mohammed Aboutrika, for all the accolade he has won in African clubside football, will not ever taste the joy of playing in a FIFA World Cup.
However, the five nations that made it for Africa are worthy qualifiers, and they are anticipating a good draw on Friday.
Nigeria, African champions, followed up their qualification for the World Cup with a pulsating 2-2 draw against a full strength Italy side, barely 48 hours after their qualification. “Our performance shows that we are capable of holding our own against top opposition, and shows we are ready for anyone”, Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi was quoted as saying.
They will be one to watch.
Cote d’Ivoire is also in the running for a good performance as they will look to banish the tag of perennial underachievers that has been given them due to their lack of overall success in big events despite their array of world class stars.
Cameroon is on a resurgence, and from their last game against Tunisia, showed that they will not be pushovers in the World Cup. And the Ghana Black Stars, who came real close to giving Africa a first ever semi final berth in World Cup history are back there again.
All these nations, plus Algeria, will be on tenterhooks as the balls keep coming out in the Draw that will hold on Friday.