Nigeria, South Africa walk Olympic tightrope
© AFP

African giants Nigeria and South Africa face must-win home fixtures this weekend as they look to keep alive hopes of competing at the 2012 Men's Olympic Football Tournament in London.

The Nigerians have a slightly easier mission in a competition restricted to U-23 footballers as they trail giant-killers Tanzania 1-0 ahead of the return encounter at Obgemudia Stadium in Benin City. South Africa, meanwhile, need at least two goals against Benin at Rand Stadium in Johannesburg after losing 3-1 away two weeks ago in the first leg of a third round qualifier.

Sudan, who stunned Ghana in the previous round, face Egypt in Mediterranean city Alexandria following a goalless first leg in the last-16 stage of the elimination process. Zambia appear doomed as they tackle Algeria in Chingola burdened by a 3-0 away loss and Cote d'Ivoire look set to progress as they enjoy home advantage plus a 2-1 lead over Congo.

West African countries Mali and Senegal have realistic hopes of reaching the mini-league final qualifying phase provisionally set for December after forcing goalless draws in Gabon and Tunisia respectively. Congo DR can be optimistic, too, ahead of a clash with Morocco at the 80,000-seat Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa despite conceding a stoppage-time goal to lose 2-1 away.

Tanzania have no chance against us. Qualifying for the finals and winning the gold medals remains our goal.
Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen

Nigeria coach Augustine Eguavoen has promised a goalfest after Tanzania surprisingly won the first leg to enhance a reputation established by eliminating 2000 gold medalists Cameroon in the second round. "Tanzania have no chance against us," boasted the former Super Eagles star. "Remember that the first leg was played at the end of a long season in Europe and some of my players were suffering wear and tear."

"Qualifying for the finals and winning the gold medals remains our goal," he said of a country with a proud Games record having struck gold at Atlanta in 1996 and silver at Beijing three years ago.

Ekigho Ehiosun - leading scorer in the qualifiers with four goals - is back in contention after missing the first leg as he was with the national squad in Ethiopia for a CAF Africa Cup of Nations fixture. Jamhuri Kihwelu, who is threatening to quit after the return match because he says a foreign coach has been lined up to replace him, omitted striker Mrisho Ngassa for indiscipline.

Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba, who coached South Africa through qualifiers and a play-off against New Zealand to reach the 2000 Sydney Games, where they shocked Brazil, must do without key midfielders Andile Jali and Thulani Serero. South African Footballer of the Year Serero and runner-up Jali are injured and several other first choices are unavailable as Mashaba tries to undo the damage of Cotonou.

Sudan coach Mohamed Mohiuddin has not given up hope despite failing to translate chances into goals against Egypt, whose 10 appearances at the Games football tournament is a record for an African nation. "Winning away to Ghana in the last rouind gave us a huge morale boost and we possess sufficient skill and experience to embarrass Egypt at their ground," he said.