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A number of African countries are surprisingly leading their groups in qualification for the Brazil showpiece, and Goal.com pinpoints the players who were key for their teams

By Kent Mensah

African sides were busy with their World Cup 2014 qualification campaigns last weekend and despite some let-downs, a handful of players can be singled out for their immense contributions that led their respective national teams to victory.

Goal.com places the spotlight on five African players, whose sterling performances kept their countries on the right passage towards Brazil 2014.

5. RAZAK OMOTOYOSSI (Rwanda 1-1 Benin)
The Nigerian-born Benin footballer deserves applause in their qualifying series. He has two goals to his name and that also happens to be the only strikes netted by the west African side in their last two games. His efforts have pushed them to the summit of Group H made up of Algeria, Mali and Rwanda. He denied the Eagles a win with his 18th minute goal in their opening game.

He found the net once again in their second fixture against the Amavubi, although their lead was nullified through a penalty courtesy of Labama Bokota. Omotoyossi, a well travelled footballer, is a striker whose experience can help the Squirrels make an impact in their qualification campaign.

4. AHMED ZUWAY (Libya 2-1 Cameroon)
The Mediterranean Knights are leading Group I on four points thanks to their draw against Togo and a victory in their game against African powerhouse Cameroon.

The 29-year-old scored in both games to help them in earn those four crucial points in a section that contains DR Congo, Cameroon and Togo.

The Club Athletique Bizertin striker is also in contention for the top-scorer prize in the qualifiers, as he is only a goal shy of leading marksman Saladin Said, who has amassed three strikes after the two matches.

3. MOHAMED SALAH (Guinea 2-3 Egypt)
The 19-year-old’s last-gasp goal in stoppage time was exactly what Egypt needed to announce their return to continental dominance. The seven-time African champions have not made it to the World Cup in 24 years and starting the qualifying campaign towards Brazil 2014 without a loss in the two matches sends a clear message that the Pharaohs are back.

Salah was instrumental at Under-23 level, where he helped the team qualify for the All Africa and Olympic Games, and continuing the same vein of form at the senior level has become an advantage to coach Bob Bradley.

2. CHRISTOPHER KATONGO (Zambia 1-0 Ghana)
The 29-year-old is a leader par excellence. After falling at the hands of Sudan the week before, the Henan Construction striker inspired a spirited Chipolopolo outfit to frustrate rivals Ghana. The southern Africans dominated the game and proved more aggressive than their west African counterparts, who had annihilated Lesotho 7-0 in their opening game.

The captain scored the only goal of the match and was physically present in every department when helping the team consolidate their solitary lead. Zambia are still only third in the standings, but Katongo’s effort has placed them in a better position to make a recovery.

1. SALIN SAID (Ethiopia 2-0 CAR)
The Ethiopian scored three goals in a week to take the Black Lions to the top of Group A in their World Cup 2014 qualification campaign. The 23-year-old netted against South Africa to give them a draw, before going on to unleash two unanswered goals against the Central African Republic (CAR) in their second game.

Ethiopia have never qualified for the global football fiesta before and starting off on a positive note comes as a great relief and surprise to local fans. The Wadi Degla striker has lifted some of the burden on his side as they prepare for their next World Cup qualifying game in March 2013 against Botswana.

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