Barron’s | France-born English Premier League forward Bryan Mbeumo hopes switching national team loyalty to Cameroon can win him a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Brentford star Mbeumo is one of many wanting to impress from Thursday as the five African qualifiers — Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia — play two warm-up matches each.
Brighton defender Tariq Lamptey and Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams, both born in Europe to Ghanaian parents, are among others taking advantage of a FIFA rule that permits changing allegiance.
An increasing number of footballers from Europe are choosing to represent the African country where their parents or grandparents were born.
Opponents for the African quintet between Thursday and Tuesday range from record five-time World Cup winners Brazil to Nicaragua, ranked 139th in the world.
Here, AFP Sport reveals how the qualifiers are shaping up for the last international window until club football halts just seven days before the World Cup kicks off on November 20.
Apart from selecting Mbeumo for the first time, coach Rigobert Song has recalled Nicolas Nkoulou and George Mandjeck for matches in South Korea against the host nation and Uzbekistan.
Defender Nkoulou last lined up for the Indomitable Lions five years ago and midfielder Mandjeck has not featured for the five-time African champions since 2019.
“We need experienced players like Nicolas and George, who will help our new generation of players grow. They are passionate and patriotic,” said Song.
Ghana have included Lamptey, Williams and former Germany youth internationals Stephan Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer for matches against Brazil and Nicaragua in France and Spain.
There is also a place in the squad for Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu, who was born in Ghana but declined previous call-ups, saying he wanted to concentrate on his club career.
Coach Otto Addo, mastermind of a shock qualification at the expense of Nigeria, has picked five Premier League players, including Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew.
Most attention will be on Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech when six-time World Cup qualifiers Morocco tackle Chile and Paraguay at Spanish venues.
He has been recalled by new coach Walid Regragui after being shunned by Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic, who accused the Premier League player of being “untruthful” and “a trouble maker”.
“We look forward to the Hakim that all Moroccans love, the one who fights on the pitch and gives everything for his country,” said former international Regragui.
African champions Senegal have been hit by a string of blows before facing Bolivia and fellow qualifiers Iran in France and Slovakia.
Bayern Munich full-back Bouna Sarr will miss Qatar due to knee surgery and forward Keita Balde can only play at the World Cup after the second round due to an anti-doping violation.
A further concern for coach Aliou Cisse is defender Noah Fadiga — the son of 2002 Senegal World Cup midfielder Khalilou — who suffered concussion playing in France last weekend.
Consistently poor World Cup performers Tunisia will face Africa Cup of Nations surprise packets the Comoros and star-studded Brazil in France.
“Tackling Brazil is a daunting task,” admits captain and leading scorer Wahbi Khazri, “but it will be a great reality check, telling us where we are strong and where we must improve”.
Tunisia have won only two and lost nine of 15 matches in five World Cup appearances, with 40 years separating victories over Mexico and Panama.