Egypt will attempt to engineer a World Cup miracle by overturning a 6-1 deficit against Ghana on Tuesday and snatch a spot in 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 play-off.
Egypt have been lifted by Al Ahly’s eighth CAF 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 of Ghana.
Ghana skipper Asamoah Gyan, who scored twice in Kumasi in the 6-1 first leg mauling, will not dismiss Egypt’s chances of a great comeback.
“It’s football and so anything can happen,” he said.
“We’re in a comfortable position right now, but we need to totally focus on our job and make sure we do what we have to do to reach Brazil.”
Egypt beat Zambia 2-0 in a warm-up last week and the Pharaohs coach Bob Bradley has promised to ring changes to the team from the disastrous outing in Kumasi.
Ghana’s concerns over their safety in Cairo have headlined the build-up to Tuesday’s fixture and it needed the intervention of world football governing FIFA to assure them they will 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 on Tuesday 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.
However, this time Burkina Faso take a 3-2 win from the first encounter in Ouagadougou last month and are desperate for a place in a first final.
Algeria are favoured to win, but ex-skipper Anthar Yahia has warned that this match can only be won or lost on the pitch and not on the pages of newspapers.
“Algeria will be the favourites 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,” said Esperance of Tunisia defender Yahia.
“Burkina Faso reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations and they have proved to be a very good team. They only need a draw to qualify and so it could be difficult for Algeria, who also need to be cautious when going forward.”
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 of Burkina have been boosted with the return from injury of their talisman Alain Traore, who missed last month’s first leg.
The class of the 24-year-old striker is not in doubt as he proved at the last Nations Cup in South Africa, but his promising career has often been dogged by injuries.