Ghana, Egypt kick off 2014 qualifiers
Ghana start off the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying at home with coach Kwesi Appiah demanding his side to be at their clinical best against Lesotho.
Appiah's first match as head coach is this Friday with Ghana opening up at the Baba Yara Stadium as their bid to reach their third straight finals in Brazil begins.
As one of the seeded nations, Ghana were given a bye through the first qualifying round but as the real work starts now Appiah wants to see his players make a bright start to the group.
The opening Group D contest against Lesotho which kicks off at 17:00 GMT is the first of two games in the second round qualifying before the campaign takes a long break only to return next year.
Only one team from the four nation group will progress to the third round.
Appiah, who wore the Ghana shirt and had been an assistant since 2008 before assuming the reigns insist his young and spirited side must match their previous achievement and instil even more fear in the group.
“We are going into the match with all the seriousness it deserves and I have cautioned my players to stay focused,” Appiah said ahead of Friday's game with Basothos.
Ghana find themselves in a tough group which includes African champions, Zambia and Sudan.
Despite a big clash, against Zambia awaiting the Black Stars next, Sulley Muntari believes the first game is the most crucial.
"We played them during the World Cup qualifying [in 2008], it was a very difficult game. We know exactly how they play, so it's going to be the same. It's going to be very difficult," Muntari said.
"They are going to stay back and hold it but all we want is to play good football."
EGYPT READY TO REVIVE WORLD CUP DREAM
It is 22 years since Egypt last took part in the Fifa World Cup finals in Italy in 1990. Egypt was the first African country to play in the World Cup finals back in 1934 when the Pharaohs played in the second edition of the globe’s most prestigious football tournament in that too was in Italy.
Even when the Pharaohs dominated on the continent throughout the last decade winning the CAF African Cup of Nations three times in a row between 2006 to 2010, they failed to make it to the World Cup finals. Egypt almost made it to 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa but lost narrowly in a play off to bitter rivals Algeria in Sudan as the agony continued.
This time the Pharaohs start on another attempt to fulfill the dream of reaching their third finals as they kick off their 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifications campaign this weekend. Egypt will begin the road to the finals with a home game against Mozambique at the Alexandria Burg El Arab Stadium. The match will be played behind closed doors for security reasons.
The country is still under some unrest following last year's January revolution, and the Egypt's manager Bob Bradley has been trying to keep his charges' minds away from the current situation. The American born manager told his players that their success in the World Cup qualifiers can bring the joy to the country which is going through a tough period at present.
"We face a tough situation", Bradley said. "The domestic league was abandoned after Port Said tragedy and we weren’t able to play friendly games at home. So we had to arrange for some training camps abroad to keep our players ready and fit for the qualifiers matches. We hope to have a positive start against Mozambique to kick off the campaign in a positive way", added the former United States of America manager.
Egypt is drawn in Group G alongside Mozambique, Guinea and Zimbabwe. Their second game will be on next week away in Conakry to The Syli National of Guinea. "It's a tough group, but our only aim is the World Cup. Hence we will play all our games aiming for victory", concluded Bradley.
Ghana v Lesotho
Egypt v Mozambique
Kenya v Malawi
Central African Republic v Botswana
Cameroon v Congo DR
Sierra Leone v Cape Verde
Gambia v Morocco
Sudan v Zambia
Ivory Coast v Tanzania Abidjan
Tunisia v Equatorial Guinea
Burkina Faso v Congo
Senegal v Liberia
Algeria v Rwanda
Zimbabwe v Guinea
Source: Ghanafa.org and Cafonline.com
South Africa v Ethiopia
Niger v Gabon
Benin v Mali
Angola v Uganda
Togo v Libya
Nigeria v Namibia