Egypt will attempt to engineer a World Cup miracle by overturning a 6-1 deficit against Ghana today and snatch a spot at the finals in Brazil next year.
With Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon already assured of their places, there are only two remaining African slots up for grabs, with Burkina Faso taking a slim 3-2 lead to Algeria in the second leg of their playoff.
Egypt have been lifted by Al Ahly’s eighth African Champions League win at the expense of South Africa’s Orlando Pirates this month, with Mohamed Aboutrika providing the inspiration.
Aboutrika scored in both legs and he will again be looked upon to spark off a miraculous comeback against the Black Stars.
Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan, who scored twice in Kumasi in the 6-1 first-leg mauling, was not dismissing Egypt’s chances of a great comeback.
“It’s football and so anything can happen,” Gyan said.
Egypt beat Zambia 2-0 in a warm-up last week and Pharaohs coach Bob Bradley has promised to ring the changes from the disastrous outing in Kumasi.
Ghana’s concerns over their safety in Cairo have headlined the buildup to today’s fixture and it needed the intervention of FIFA to assure them they would be safe in the Egyptian capital.
The Black Stars have been strengthened with the return of fit-again Kevin-Prince Boateng and Harrison Afful, who was suspended for the first game.
A major injury doubt for Ghana is defender David Addy, who is nursing an ankle problem.
The battle for the final World Cup ticket from Africa will be decided later today between hosts Algeria and Burkina Faso at the Mustapha Tchaker Stadium in Blida, where Algeria have not lost in 19 matches since 2002.
In June, at the same venue, Algeria beat Burkina Faso 2-0 in a friendly, but this time Burkina Faso take a 3-2 win from the first encounter in Ouagadougou last month and are desperate for a place in their first finals.
Algeria are favored to win, but former skipper Anthar Yahia has warned that the match can only be won or lost on the pitch, and not in the pages of newspapers.
“Algeria will be the favorites to win going by their record against Burkina Faso. This is what the media have suggested, but the most important thing is really what happens on the pitch,” Yahia said.
Bosnian coach Vahid Halihodzic has said Algeria were undone by biased officiating in Burkina Faso, but he is confident he has an attack capable of overturning the loss in Ouagadougou.
The Stallions have been boosted with the return from injury of their talisman Alain Traore, who missed last month’s first leg.