Brazil 2014: Africa could provide a major shock

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Brazil 2014 is edging ever closer and the make up of the teams that will compete for the trophy is almost decided, with predictions being made already about who can stop champions Spain winning it again.

The host nation are also getting very excited about the tournament, with belief high among Brazilian fans that Luis Felipe Scolari's side, led by new global superstar Neymar, can make it a sixth trophy.

Germany and Holland romped through their respective qualifying groups and many have mentioned both as being favourites, while Lionel Messi is finally starting to look his best for Argentina - something that automatically makes them contenders.

Meanwhile lots of people are fretting over whether France and Portugal will make it through the European playoff round, as the likes of Franck Ribery and Messi's great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, are seen as possible game changers when the action starts in June.

However, 2014 could be perfect timing for a team from Africa to pull off something special, as a number of stories are beginning to form in the final stages of the qualifying rounds to decide which five countries will be heading to South America.

Three of the nations talking part in the playoffs will be confident of seeing out their ties after winning the first leg and all of them have the capacity to do something special in the tournament proper, should they book their places there next week as expected.

Nigeria are fresh from their thrilling Africa Cup of Nations triumph last year and won their qualifying group with relative ease, before a good comeback away to Ethiopia has put them in the driving seat for the return leg on Saturday.

Manager Stephen Keshi has got a fantastic atmosphere in the squad and they are evolving into a team that could be formidable opponents for any of the big nations that will be present in Brazil.

Another exciting facet of the Nigeria squad is their age; the 23-man squad that was selected to face Ethiopia had an average age of just over 24 years - meaning the development of Keshi's side is far from finished and could have enough exciting youthful talent to play without fear.

Age is another factor for one other of the three sides that could make waves at the tournament proper, as some of Ivory Coast's biggest stars edge closer to the end of their careers and Brazil would present a last chance for many of them.

The average age of the entire squad is just over 27, which wouldn't be too great a problem but the starting XI for the first leg 3-1 victory over Senegal was 29 and only one of them was under 26, while four of them were 30 or over.

Didier Drogba is 35, Yaya Toure is 30, Didier Zokora is 32 and Kolo Toure, who was left on the bench for this match, is 32 - all four can be described as some of the moat important members of the squad and all four could quite possibly be past it when Russia 2018 comes around.

It could be a case of last chance saloon for a group of players that have failed to fulfil their enormous potential on the world stage, which could be the motivating factor they need to galvanise the squad and focus the minds.

Meanwhile, Ghana thrashed Egypt, who had won every one of their group matches, 6-1 in Kumasi to make their biggest statement yet that they are ready to move past the controversy of 2010, where Luis Suarez's infamous handball and Asamoah Gyan's subsequent penalty miss denied the Black Stars a place in the semi-final.

Akwasi Appiah's side were sensational against Egypt and are expected to secure their qualification without any problems when the second leg takes place next Tuesday.

Ghana's squad is brimming with young talent and they have already shown they can hold their own against some of the more prestigious teams on the biggest stage of all.

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World Cup
Didier Drogba

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