African football giants Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria will discover on Monday which country they must defeat to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The trio, plus Algeria and Tunisia, are seeded for the play-off draw with Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Ethiopia unseeded.
A noon (2pm) ceremony at the Cairo headquarters of the Confederation of African Football will create five two-leg ties between seeded and unseeded sides.
And a separate draw will determine who plays at home first as the 51-nation qualifying competition reaches an intriguing climax.
Seedings were decided by the monthly Fifa Africa rankings released last week and topped by the Didier Drogba-captained Ivorians.
First legs are scheduled for October 11-15 and return matches for November 15-19, with the five aggregate winners representing Africa at the global football showcase.
All five qualifiers for the previous World Cup in South Africa three years ago — Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria — are in contention.
South Africa also participated, with hosts earning the right automatically, in a tournament where Africa flopped, with only Ghana surviving the first round.
Ghana and Marseille midfield star Andre Ayew has no concerns ahead of the draw. “We are ready to face any opponent,” said the son of Ghana legend Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew and older brother of Marseille team-mate Jordan.
“Ghana will grind out results against whichever country we play and qualify for a third consecutive World Cup tournament.”
Veteran Egypt centre-back Wael Gomaa would be happy to face Ghana as the Pharaohs seek a first World Cup appearance since 1990 in Italy.
“We have been successful against Ghana and Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations and know them better than sides like Ethiopia,” he said.
Egypt defeated Nigeria en route to the 2010 Cup of Nations final, where a late Mohammad ‘Geddo’ Nagy goal brought victory over Ghana in Luanda.
Mohammad Abu Trika, one of the greatest African footballers never to feature at a World Cup, hopes Egypt avoid Algeria and Tunisia.
“I want all the north African countries to qualify for the World Cup,” said the 34-year-old midfielder with a degree in philosophy.
“That would be better than two teams from the region playing each other and one being deprived of a chance to compete in Brazil.
“However, we must not become preoccupied by who we might meet — we must be ready to face any of our five potential opponents.”
Although World Cup play-offs in Africa were abandoned after the 1990 qualifiers, a two-leg showdown between Egypt and Algeria was necessary four years ago.
It had ugly repercussions, with an Algerian victory amid tight security in Sudan sparking riots in Algiers and Cairo and considerable damage to property.
Diplomatic relations were severely strained but veteran Egypt striker Emad Moteab does not fear another showdown between the countries.
“I believe a play-off against Algeria will be very different this time,” he said. “Algerians and Egyptians have matured and will not allow another crisis to develop.
“Should we be drawn together, Algerian and Egyptian football supporters must not allow two games of football to cause enmity.”
Egypt could be the most handicapped of the 10 play-off hosts as political turbulence and related violence has forced them to play behind closed doors.