Uchebo, Bentaleb among young Africans earning looks in World Cup prep friendlies

The midweek international friendly fixture list will see Nigeria's Michael Uchebo and Tottenham's Nabil Bentaleb among the young talents trying to work their way into African World Cup squads.

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Nigeria have given first call-ups to Belgium-based Imoh Ezekiel and Michael Uchebo as the search for 2014 World Cup sharpshooters continues Wednesday with a warm-up against Mexico.

Ezekiel plays for Standard Liege and Uchebo for Cercle Bruges and both could get a chance in the American city of Atlanta to show their worth.

Coach Stephen Keshi is concerned about his goal-shy attack ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, where the Super Eagles’ first-round Group F rivals are Argentina, Bosnia Herzegovina and Iran.

Other strikers chosen for the Mexico fixture include Shola Ameobi of Newcastle United and Emmanuel Emenike of Fenerbahce.

Midfielder Ramon Azeez from Spanish side Almeria is another newcomer as former national team captain Keshi casts his net wide in pursuit of fresh talent.

Veteran defender Joseph Yobo is back in the squad having heeded Keshi and quit Fenerbahce for Norwich City to get game time.

Fellow World Cup qualifiers Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast also play in mid-week as the on-field countdown to the 32-nation world football spectacular kicks off.

Ghana welcome first-choice central defenders John Boye and Jonathan Mensah back from injuries that kept them out of an African play-off triumph over Egypt last year.

But goalkeeper Fatau Dauda has been omitted for a Podgorica date with Montenegro as coach Kwesi Appiah continues to consider only footballers playing regularly at club level.

Dauda has been unable to displace South Africa second-choice Senzo Meyiwa this season at Soweto outfit Orlando Pirates.

Ivory Coast hope reigning African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure can take outstanding club form into a Brussels friendly against Belgium.

Toure scored an outstanding goal last weekend when Manchester City defeated Sunderland in the English League Cup final, curling the ball into the roof of the net from outside the box.

Compatriot Salomon Kalou is also on fire, scoring a hat-trick for French outfit Lille, while the English Premier League struggles of Swansea have not prevented Wilfried Bony netting regularly.

Belgium should test the ‘Elephants’ with Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard two of the England-based stars in a team many pundits believe can go far in Brazil.

Algeria are in the same Group H as the Belgians and they stay in Africa this week, hosting 2010 World Cup qualifiers Slovenia in Blida.

Teenage Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, who represented France at age-limit level, has opted to play senior football for the homeland of his parents.

He has been included in the squad for Slovenia, but an injury rules out wide Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, one of the Desert Foxes’ main attacking threats.

Cameroon chose two Barcelona ‘babes’ – defender Macky Franck Bagnack and striker Jean Marie Dongou – for a Leiria warm-up against Portugal.

The youngsters are reserves at the Spanish and European giants and were named in a squad lacking midfielder Stephane Mbia and striker Achille Webo owing to injuries.

Long-time assistant Shawky Gharib debuts as Egypt coach against Bosnia in Austria and has brought back 41-year-old goalkeeper Essam al-Hadary.

Senegal have recalled out-of-favour Chelsea striker Demba Ba for a Paris friendly with Mali, whose new coach Henryk Kasperczak gives first call-ups to midfielders Birama Toure and Bakary Sako.

Delvin Ndinga, a key midfield cog when Greek side Olympiakos upset Manchester United 2-0 in the Champions League first leg match last week, is part of the Republic of Congo squad for a Tunis friendly with Libya.