Top scorers: Things have moved on apace over the last year for Algeria frontman Islam Slimani, who earned a move to Sporting Lisbon over the summer and has prove himself a reliable international goalscorer too, with five of his nine goals in national colours coming in the qualifiers. Coaches: It’s a sign of these sorry times for the Mexicans, that Miguel Herrera, when appointed for the play-offs last month, was the fourth man in the role in the space of two months! The disappointment in Mexico’s qualifying campaign comes from the fact that they are regulars at the World Cup – missing out only five times in the history of the competition. In the Ivory Coast’s star-studded team, Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou have both scored four times. The attacking thrust has already been mentioned, so if Senegal are to give it a go, the experience of Yaya (30), Kolo Toure (32) and former Spurs man Didier Zokora (32), now at Trabzonspor in Turkey, will be very useful.
A Didier Drogba penalty, fc bayern munich jersey own goal from Lamine Sane and a third from Salomon Kalou gave the Elephants a commanding lead before Papiss Cisse pulled one back to give Senegal a glimmer of hope. Write a lead item about Rodgers. Aristide Bance, who had earlier missed a spot-kick, converted to give Burkina Faso a 3-2 lead. Two Burkina Faso players have scored three goals so far – Aristide Bance, who plays in Germany, kept his nerve at the end of the first leg, and Jonathan Pitroipa, the Rennes winger who was Player of the Tournament at the Cup of Nations. Even if you were born in the immediate pre-War years, you knew no British chap could ever win a Grand Slam tennis tournament. And it took a late win over Panama in their penultimate game to secure even that. By contrast, New Zealand boss Ricki Herbert has become synonymous with ‘stability’ having been in the role since 2005. He famously took New Zealand through the 2010 World Cup unbeaten.
New Zealand made it in 1982 and then in 2010 but were unable quite to make it out of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and Italy. New Zealand cruised through the group stage in Oceania qualifying, winning all six games. The biggest surprise perhaps is that despite winning a number of trophies in recent seasons, current Premier League champions Manchester City have not yet translated that success into massive shirt sales. Coaches Alain Giresse, one corner of the legendary ‘Magic Square’ with Platini, Tigana and Fernandez in France’s Euro ’84 winning side, was appointed for Senegal this year but looks set to fall short on his World Cup objective. For all their strength in the Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt have struggled to perform in the World Cup – reaching the finals only in 1934 and 1990. Ghana have shot to prominence in the last two tournaments. The Ivory Coast have made the last two tournaments but have not yet got out of the group. Where do you start in the Ivory Coast side? It has been a frustrating year for the Lorient forward, who missed most of the Cup of Nations run, but there could be a late silver lining if he can return to help his side into the World Cup for the first time.
Burkina Faso, meanwhile, were boosted by the return from injury of star striker Alain Traore. Burkina Faso have never made the finals, while Algeria are chasing a fourth appearance. Player to watch: Algeria were dealt a massive blow when Adlene Guedioura suffered a punctured lung and two broken ribs while playing for Crystal Palace. Algeria had twice come from behind in Ouagadougou when Essaid Belkalem was harshly penalised for handball with five minutes to play. The 26-year-old Frenchman is a versatile forward who can play on either flank or through the middle. This group sees two clear favourites matched with two sides who can cause problems but will probably go out in the first round. Asamoah Gyan thumped in the opener, before Michael Essien coaxed an own goal out of Wael Gomaa. Their half a dozen are on a par with Ghana’s top scorer – Gyan. The former African Footballer of the Year, Oussama Darragi is top of the charts for Tunisia with three goals. The three of them currently top the scoring charts for the African confederation in qualifying. It has not been the usual procession for Mexico in qualifying.
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