Matchday 16 marks the penultimate round of McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor. Can portugoal fend off the army of contenders to win a trip for two to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, or will a dark horse snatch the race at the final straight? In the first of our Matchday 16 previews, we take a closer look at some of the big games.
The North African derby
The final round of African qualifiers sees rivals Egypt and Algeria square off. Three points ahead of the Pharaohs and enjoying a better goal difference, Algeria are in prime position to qualify. If Egypt plan to attend South Africa 2010, they need to win by at least three clear goals (If Egypt win by two goals, the rivals will meet once again in a playoff at a neutral ground). Travelling to Cairo, Algeria are underdogs at 89 points to win. Carrying an 85 points bounty, a draw could be equally valuable to both predictors and Algerians.
Last FIFA World Cup qualifying meeting: Algeria 3-1 Egypt (Blida, 7 June 2009)
FIFA World Cup qualifiers head-to-head record: Played (5), Egypt (2), Algeria (1), Draws (2)
The longest shot
Portugal - Bosnia-Herzegovina
While many feel the Portuguese are minutes from qualifying, a favourable Bosnia-Herzegovina result in Portugal will put the Eastern Europeans in a strong position going into the second leg. Bosnia-Herzegovina backers could earn 94 points for a win; a draw is equally rewarding at 89 points, while a Portuguese victory nets 17 points. The two sides have never met in international competition lending a tense edge to this highly anticipated play-off.
Third time lucky
Uruguay find themselves in familiar territory as they participate in their third consecutive FIFA World Cup qualification play-offs, this time against Costa Rica. Three seems to be the definitive number for both teams; Costa Rica, who featured at the last two FIFA World Cups, will be looking for a third visit to the final. The definitive match also marks Costa Rica coach Rene Simoes third qualification fixture at the helm. Can Simoes lead Los Ticos to a home win, or will the seasoned South Americans prove just too powerful?
The ultimate test
Republic of Ireland-France
Republic of Ireland face yet another FIFA World Cup champion during their qualification quest. The Boys in Green are undefeated in their ten qualification games but have shown a tendency to draw more than win. Dunne and co. will have to fend of the likes of Henry, Benzema and Anelka if they plan to make their fourth FIFA World Cup appearance. With 12 appearances from 18 FIFA World Cups, Les Bleus are favourites to qualify.
Last FIFA World Cup qualifying meeting: Republic of Ireland 0-1 France (Dublin, 7 September 2005)
FIFA World Cup qualifiers head-to-head record: Played (10), France (5), Republic of Ireland (3), Draws (2)
Veterans square off
Tipped as favourites going into the South Africa 2010 qualifiers, Morocco are winless in their five Group A games. In their final match, the four time FIFA World Cup finalists face fellow FIFA World Cup veterans Cameroon, who have five finals appearances to their name. The last match between the two sides ended in a goalless draw, but with Ghana trailing the group leaders by just one point, Cameroon will be desperate to avoid any deadlocks. Moroccan delight in Fes would return 87 points, a draw 80 points, and an Indomitable Lions' win 33 points.
Last FIFA World Cup qualifying meeting: Cameroon 0-0 Morocco (Yaounde, 7 June 2009)
FIFA World Cup qualifiers head-to-head record: Played (3), Cameroon (2), Morocco (0), Draws (1)
Matchday 16 deadline: 00:00 (GMT), 14 November 2009