Brazil could well see a repeat of the five African qualifiers from the last FIFA World Cup™ finals as Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria remain on track after their first-leg play-off matches. The continent's fifth qualified representative at South Africa 2010 was Ghana, who play their first match against Egypt on Tuesday in Kumasi.
West Africans Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria secured victories over the weekend, while Cameroon earned a draw at Tunisia and Algeria bagged two away goals and will be hoping to turn around a narrow defeat in November's return leg. FIFA.com looks back at the first-leg matches with the knowledge that the winners of the two-legged play-offs will book their place at Brazil 2014.
Match of the day
Côte d'Ivoire 3 - 1 Senegal
Goals: Didier Drogba (5 PEN), Lamine Sane (14 OG), Salomon Kalou (50) - Papiss Cisse (90+6)
Les Elephants went into the game as the clear favourites and showed from the start why they are the top-ranked African team. The 2006 and 2010 World Cup veterans went ahead through Didier Drogba's early penalty following a foul on Gervinho, and some nine minutes later the rampant Gervinho's shot was deflected into Senegal defender Lamine Sane. The home side continued where they left off after the break when Kalou added a third and put the game beyond the visitors after being set-up by Roma's in-form Gervinho. The Ivorians then had further opportunities to add a fourth goal, but Bouna Coundoul pulled off a number of good saves, and the visitors were rewarded deep into stoppage time when Papisse Cisse gave the Lions of Teranga a lifeline, scoring after Côte d'Ivoire failed to clear from a set piece.
Elsewhere around Africa
In Ougadougou, Burkina Faso supporters were treated to elements of a quintessential World Cup qualifier: plenty of goals, excitement at both ends and a 3-2 victory for the home side. Striker Aristide Bance missed a first-half penalty for the Stallions, but then scored the winner from the spot with four minutes remaining. Earlier in the match, Jonathan Pitroipa and Djakaridja Kone twice gave the Burkinabe the lead, only to see Sofiane Feghouli and Carl Medjani draw matters level for Algeria.
Burkina Faso, who finished second at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations this year but have yet to qualify for the World Cup finals, are led by coach Paul Put who said he was satisfied with the result: "I could not have asked more from my players against a great Algerian team with quality players. We are well-prepared for the second leg, which will undoubtedly be difficult, but we will go to Algeria with the intention of coming back with the qualification."
Ethiopia will have to dig deep if they are to continue their fairytale run through the qualifying campaign after losing 2-1 in Addis Ababa against African champions Nigeria. The home side dominated play in the opening hour and deservedly took the lead in the 57th minute when Behailu Assefa scored. However, Turkey-based Emmanuel Emenike, who was the top scorer at the Cup of Nations in South Africa earlier in the year, leveled matters ten minutes later with a long-range effort and converted an injury-time penalty to the despair of the Walya Antelopes' fans.
Likewise, hosts Tunisia piled on the pressure to start against Cameroon in Rades. Only some excellent goalkeeping by Charles Itandj kept the score goalless at half-time, and the Carthage Eagles had two more good chances after the break, but Fakhreddine Ben Youssef's header went just wide and Alaeddine Yahia's powerful header was well saved. Cameroon striker Pierre Webo was then gifted a golden opportunity to win the match, but with the goal at his mercy he failed to connect properly with the ball from just a few yards out. The scoreless draw leaves the tie wide open ahead of the return leg in Yaounde.
Player of the day
Aristide Bance (BFA)
Fortuna Duesseldorf striker Bance, who starred for his country at the Cup of Nations, had a chance to give the Stallions the lead against Algeria shortly before the break, but saw his penalty saved by Adi Mbolhi. In the final moments however, with the game evenly poised at 2-2, the home side was awarded another spot kick and the flamboyant attacker did not shy away from the responsibility. This time he made no mistake to secure advantage for Burkina Faso.
20 – The number of World Cup qualifying matches that Côte d'Ivoire have remained undefeated. Their last loss was a 3-2 set back at home against Cameroon in September of 2005. Since then, Les Elephants have won 14 matches and drawn six.
What they said
"We showed today that we can be a team. We scored early, which gave us the confidence to go forward and score more. It is a good victory," Côte d'Ivoire striker Salomon Kalou, who scored in his side's 3-1 win against Senegal.