While England fans can sit back and watch their team entertain the likes of Chile and old-enemies Germany in international friendlies over the next week, African and other not-so-fortunate European teams will battle it out in the play-offs for a place at the World Cup in Brazil next summer.

The African teams have played their first-leg ties already however and are preparing for the decisive second-legs which will ultimately take them to Brazil or leave them with spare time to fill next summer. 

Out of ten nations that topped their respective groups in the last stage, only five will advance to the World Cup while the other five will set their targets for the next edition of the African Cup of Nations, which will be held in Morocco in early 2015.

Let's take a look at the five fixtures which now beckon on the horizon. It's going to be an exciting, yet nervous week throughout Africa. I'll offer my predictions on the penultimate showdown, along with a quick re-cap on the first leg:

ALGERIA v BURKINA FASO

The first-leg was edge-of-the-seat stuff as the Algerians, who made a surprise appearance in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, seemed to have snatched a draw after two second half equalisers.

However a late penalty for Burkina Faso ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Although The Stallions will go into the second-leg with the advantage, I favour The Desert Foxes to book their place in Brazil as they will be boosted by away goals in their own backyard.

However Burkina Faso will be looking to build on their first-leg performance with the return of Abdou Traore, who missed the first leg through an injury setback.

SENEGAL v IVORY COAST

Despite Senegal suffering a 3-1 defeat in Abidjan in the first leg, they are not out of the game yet.

The Ivory Coast seemed to be heading to Stade Leopold Senghor with a clean sheet, but a strike deep in stoppage time by Newcastle United star Papiss Cisse gave Senegal a life-line going into the second leg at home.

The Elephants won't want to slip up on their last stop on the road to Brazil and will surely be too strong for a Senegal side who are without Chelsea striker Demba Ba. Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba will be looking to get on the scoresheet with former Premier League rival Yaya Toure again.

NIGERIA v ETHIOPIA

The first leg saw the Nigerians come from behind to walk away with a 2-1 victory thanks to two second half goals from Fenerbache striker Emenike.

With the African champions defending on home soil, it looks all but over for Ethiopia as Nigeria manager Stepen Kheshi has selected a side with enough fire power to contend with top international sides. Solomon Kalou, Victor Moses and first-leg hero Emmanuel Emenike are all likely to feature for the Super Eagles.

CAMEROON v TUNISIA

The first-leg between these two sides was the only game out of the African play-offs that ended without a goal being scored at either end.

It will be hard to separate the two sides, and I'm sure the game will be hotly contested down to the final whistle.

The Cameroonians will need to avoid complacency if they wish to reach the finals. The don't seem ready for a big tournament as their last involvement in the group stages in South Africa saw them mathematically eliminated after the second game and their failure to reach the African Cup of Nations in their past two attempts highlights this.

Tunisia on the other hand look the hungrier team as they failed to qualify for South Africa and will be wanting to get back into a big tournament.

Cameroon are expected to be captained by in-form Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o, who has scored 4 goals in his past 4 appearances for the Blues; he'll be looking to dampen Tunisia's hopes. 

EGYPT v GHANA

A game right at the other end of the spectrum compared to Tunisia v Cameroon.

Seven goals were seen in the first-leg tie as Ghana walked over Egypt to produce a 6-1 victory, the highest of the play-offs so far.

Even though Egypt will be at home, the away loss has put their dreams of reaching their first World Cup finals since 1990 to bed as the feat to overturn a 6-1 deficit is all but impossible; especially for a country that doesn't have league football at it's disposal.

Ghana can start to mentally prepare for the finals, where in 2010 they surpassed expectation and made it to the quarter-finals. Recent Chelsea signing, Christian Atsu, who is currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem will be looking to get on the score sheet again and prove his worth to the London side. 

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Topics:
World Cup
Football
Brazil Football
Internationals