West African countries dominated the African FIFA World Cup™ campaign, with Algeria being the only gatecrasher to the region's party. All five qualifiers also represented the continent in South Africa in 2010. Join FIFA.com as we look back at all of the drama along Africa's qualifying road to Brazil 2014.
The qualified teams
A stunning own goal
South Africa's Bernard Parker will presumably never forget Bafana Bafana's qualifying match against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, as the Kaizer Chiefs striker gave the visitors the lead in a game they needed to win to stay in the race for a place in Brazil. He scored a second with a powerful diving header that gave the goalkeeper no chance. Unfortunately for him, the goalkeeper he beat was his own as he scored into his own net. Getaneh Kebede had earlier equalized for the Walya Antelopes, and the 2-1 win for the home side set off wild celebrations throughout the country.
From joy to heartbreak
Another country that caused a major upset was Cape Verde. With a population of just under half-a-million people, they took on four-time finalists Tunisia, inflicting a rare home defeat on the Carthage Eagles in Rades in their last group game. Sadly for the Cape Verdean players and the entire country, the Blue Sharks were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in that game and as a result were overtaken at the top of the group by the North Africans, who went on to lose out to Cameroon for a place at the finals.
A Ghanaian avalanche
In the play-offs Ghana faced Egypt, and even though the Black Stars were slightly favoured going into the tie, not even their own fans could have imagined the 6-1 drubbing they handed to the North African giants in Kumasi. Two goals by Asamoah Gyan and goals by Majeed Waris, Sulley Muntari, Christian Atsu, as well as an own goal by Wael Gomaa, practically saw Ghana through even before they met in the return leg in Cairo.
Stallions make up ground
After taking ten points from their first four matches, Congo were all set to be one of the surprises of qualifying in Group E. They were four points ahead of favoured Burkina Faso with two matches to play, and they had a match with the Stallions at home. However, the shock African runners-up from the last CAF African Cup of Nations maintained their hot streak by winning 1-0 in Pointe-Noire through Aristide Bance's first half goal. The Burkinabe completed their unlikely comeback with a 1-0 win at home over Gabon, while Kamel Djabour's Red Devils were held to a 2-2 draw in Niger.
Lions claw their way back
Another comeback story was Africa's most frequent World Cup participants, Cameroon. For Indomitable Lions coach Volker Finke, the turning-point of their qualifying campaign came in their second-to-last game in Congo DR. "We had to avoid defeat to ensure that we still had our own destiny in our hands, and we managed to do just that," Finke said. The goalless draw in Kinshasa set the side up for a dramatic confrontation with their closest challengers, Libya, and a goal from Aurelien Chedjou gave the Cameroonians a 1-0 victory that secured their spot in the final round.
Players to watch
Kevin-Prince Boateng (GHA)
Boateng is something of the enfant terrible of Ghanaian football. Withdrawing from the national team during the 2011/12 season as he wanted to concentrate on club commitments, the German-born midfielder made himself available for selection before the first-leg play-off against Egypt, but could not play in the 6-1 victory due to an injury. He then came off the bench in Cairo to score his side's goal in the 2-1 defeat in the return-leg. If he stays in the team and plays to his full potential, he could confirm his star in Brazil.
The Ivorian forward moved from English Premier League club Arsenal to Roma at the start of the season and has played an important part as the club from the capital has taken the Serie A by storm, winning their opening ten games before being held to a draw by Torino. If he maintains his form, the 26-year-old should make a big impact on his second World Cup next summer.
Emmanuel Emenike (NGA)
Unlike Boateng and Gervinho, Emenike has yet to appear at the World Cup finals. Super Eagles' coach Stephen Keshi has shown faith in the Fenerbahce striker though, who has repaid him as best he can - by scoring goals. The 26-year-old, who was co-top scorer at the last AFCON, also grabbed both in the important 2-1 away victory in Ethiopia in the first leg of the play-off, which set the west Africans firmly on the road to Brazil.
What they said
"Now that we have qualified, we have to start our preparations as soon as tomorrow. If we start work soon we can do better than what Ghana did three years ago in South Africa," Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, aiming for a place in the semi-finals in Brazil next year.
"Since taking over Algeria 29 months ago, I have worked without talking too much because it is the work that pays. I try to talk less and work more. We have achieved something great. It is not every day you can qualify for a global competition and in particular one that is held in Brazil," Algerian coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who qualified for the 2010 finals in South Africa with Côte d'Ivoire, but was dismissed a few months before the start of the tournament.
"He was so determined to lead and push a team to the World Cup. And he and I continue to share this partnership, we are blood brothers. He is a good man. I could not be prouder to have anyone on my team. I have coached great players in my career, and I put Aboutrika up there with any of them. When you have him on your team you know that there will get the right type of motivation and the right type of focus," Egyptian coach Bob Bradley about Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the best-ever African players never to have graced the world stage.
28 - Nigeria's unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers. Their last defeat was in the summer of 2004 to Angola. With Côte d'Ivoire, who have their own unbeaten streak at 21 matches, the Super Eagles were the only team to remain undefeated throughout the African qualifying campaign.
The top scorers
Asamoah Gyan, GHA - 6
Mohamed Aboutrika, EGY - 6
Mohamed Salah, EGY - 6