The final stages of World Cup qualifying always make for some tense and interesting moments. So many nations begin the journey with serious hopes of making the tournament. Some of those dreams are realized, while others are dashed late in the process.
Ultimately, it's that fine line between making the World Cup and having to wait at least four more years before getting a chance to play on the sport's biggest stage which makes for intriguing action. The terrific drama makes qualifying special.
With that in mind, let's examine some of the most fascinating World Cup qualifiers on tap for Tuesday and make predictions for the outcomes of each. For a complete look at the upcoming fixtures, visit FIFA's official site.
Ghana vs. Egypt
Ghana and Egypt face off in the best of the five CAF playoff matchups. The Black Stars enter as the favorite after reaching the knockout rounds at each of the last two World Cups, but the Pharaohs didn't drop a single point during the previous round of play.
As the home team, Ghana is under more pressure in the first leg. Veterans like Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari and Michael Essien must fill the leadership roles, which are crucial in these key fixtures. They don't want to head into the second leg playing from behind.
For Egypt, the focus should be getting a draw, and anything else would be a bonus. Mohamed Aboutrika has been in fine form. Getting him a lot of touches in the early portion of the match will allow Mohamed Salah and Co. to settle in alongside him, giving the Pharaohs a chance.
Prediction: Ghana 1, Egypt 1
England vs. Poland
The task for England is clear. It must take care of business at Wembley Stadium against Poland to earn a direct trip to Brazil. Anything less than a victory likely means a trip to the playoffs since Ukraine gets to face an overmatched San Marino side in the group finale.
Since the Three Lions are coming off a convincing victory over Montenegro, the biggest key is finding a way to carry that form over to face Poland. Wayne Rooney continues to shine at the international level, but he'll need help from Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, among others.
As for Poland, its hopes for making the World Cup ended in a loss to Ukraine. England must attempt to capitalize on that disappointment by taking control of the match early. Robert Lewandowski will probably make things interesting, but it's a match the Three Lions should win.
Prediction: England 2, Poland 1
Costa Rica vs. Mexico
Mexico was expected to cruise through CONCACAF qualifying. Instead, it heads into the final match of group play with elimination still a possibility. But the situation would have been even more dire if not for a late highlight-reel winner from Raul Jimenez against Panama last week.
El Tri need a much better performance from Javier Hernandez if they are going to pull out a win on the road and guarantee themselves at least a playoff with New Zealand. He looked out of sorts in the last match, lacking the attacking presence he usually brings to the match.
Costa Rica already clinched a spot in Brazil, and it showed against Honduras. The Ticos had very little intensity throughout the clash. A similar showing against a desperate Mexico side would lead to another poor result. Bryan Ruiz must try to get his side to bounce back strong.
Prediction: Mexico 1, Costa Rica 0
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