Africa play-offs draw Premier League stars
Johannesburg: Brothers Kolo and Yaya Toure are among 16 English Premier League footballers called up for 2014 World Cup play-offs in Africa this weekend.
While Manchester City midfielder and two-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya is a permanent fixture in the Ivory Coast team, the recall of Liverpool centre-back Kolo caused surprise.
Kolo, 32, was discarded after the national team failed this year for the fifth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournament to justify being title favourites.
But a move from Manchester City, where he had become a fringe player, to Liverpool reinvigorated the former Arsenal star.
Yaya, who has been scoring regularly for City this season, was lured to Manchester from European giants Barcelona by a huge salary hike.
The Toures, Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote and Swansea City striker Wilfried Bony are in the Ivorian squad for a clash with Senegal in Abidjan.
Tiote had a classic African rise to fame -- playing barefoot until 15 -- and Anderlecht spotted him in a lower-league match.
Missing a penalty on his debut for the Belgians did not deter him and he arrived at the `Magpies` three years ago via Dutch club Twente.
Bony honed his skills at the academy of former Ivory Coast defender Cyrille Domoraud and was voted 2013 Footballer of the Year in the Netherlands before quitting Vitesse.
West Ham United midfielder Mohamed Diame and Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse are in the Senegal squad for the west Africa showdown.
Born in a Paris suburb, Diame is eligible for the `Teranga Lions` because his father comes from Dakar, and he spent three seasons at Wigan before moving to London.
Cisse is experiencing a Premier League goal drought this season after notable achievements in Germany and England.
His 22 goals for Freiburg in a season is a Bundesliga record for an African and he claimed the BBC Goal of the Season with an audacious effort at Chelsea.
Recently hired Chelsea striker and record four-time African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto`o will be the lone Premier League representative when his Cameroon side play in Tunisia.
Eto`o told team-mates after a group victory over Libya last month that he was quitting international football, but the 32-year-old changed his mind this week.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says the striker has lost some pace, a worry for an `Indomitable Lions` outfit that relies heavily on Eto`o for inspiration and goals.
African champions Nigeria have called up midfielders John Obi Mikel of Chelsea and Victor Moses of Liverpool and Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi for a match with Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.
Mikel recently celebrated his first Premier League goal after 184 barren outings while Moses was a key figure in the 2013 Cup of Nations-winning side.
Ameobi won his first `Super Eagles` cap last year aged 31 and is a rare one-club footballer having been at Newcastle for 18 seasons.
Box-to-box Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien recently returned to the Ghana fold after having his national team career disrupted by several lengthy injuries.
Emmanuel Frimpong is a lesser known `Black Stars` midfielder, but Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says the 21-year-old is a "fighter and a winner".
Egypt, who face Ghana, buck the African trend of favouring overseas-based stars, but they do have defender-cum-midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady and striker Mohamed `Gedo` Nagy from Hull City.
Chelsea teenage midfielder Bertrand Traore, who made his senior Burkina Faso debut at 16, is in the squad to tackle Algeria, whose squad includes Crystal Palace midfielder Adlene Guedioura.
The winners of the five two-leg play-offs qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.