Three competitive home-and-away ties will determine Africa's representatives at November's FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012, with the first leg being played this weekend and the second leg a fortnight later.
Libya, Egypt and Morocco will try to complete a North African sweep, but all three contests would look to be evenly poised. Veterans from Brazil 2008, Libya and Egypt are opening at home, which should give them some edge against South Africa and Nigeria respectively. Four years ago, the African championship was a knockout event, and Libya beat Egypt 4-3 in the final. Despite one draw and three losses at the last World Cup, the sport has continued to be very popular in Libya. They are considered the strongest side in the most-competitive region for the game in Africa, and another spot at the world finals would be a great achievement for the crisis-hit country.
Having reached the last four finals, the Egyptians have the most experience of any team. They recorded the continent's first Futsal World Cup goal at Spain 1996 and also became Africa's first nation past the group stage four years later. Egypt showed they are currently in solid form in the previous round, beating Tunisia 9-3 on aggregate.
The dark horses
Certainly Egypt will have a tough opponent in ambitious Nigeria, who have not yet played in qualifying after Gabon pulled out of the previous round. The Futsal Eagles have not qualified for the World Cup since their only appearance in 1992 will be missing Premier League striker Gambo Mohammed for the first leg as he continues to rehab from malaria.
The Morocco and Mozambique tie is a rematch of the third-place contest four years ago, which the Moroccans won. The winner will be at least one debutant from Africa at the World Cup with South Africa aiming to be another first-time finalist, but their coach, Quinton Allies, admits his team will be underdogs against the Libyans. "They are a good side, and they've been playing this game for a very long time now,” he said, before adding: “We will do our homework and make sure we are more than prepared.”
"Egypt are good but not unbeatable, so we will be ready for them. We have shown great enthusiasm and spirit, and the team have the skills and the discipline to triumph," Nigeria coach Oladunni Oyekale.
6 - The number of matches CAF representatives have won at the Futsal World Cup finals in 29 chances.