Ghana race enters final straight
The lineup for next year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations should become a lot clearer after a busy weekend featuring 19 qualifying matches across the continent.
Angola, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia have already booked their places alongside hosts Ghana at the tournament but that number should at least double over the coming days, with the outcome in all but two of the 12 groups expected to be settled by Sunday night. FIFA.com asssesses the state of play.
Group 1 - Gabon need a miracle
Côte d'Ivoire travel to face Alain Giresse's Gabon without injured captain Didier Drogba but needing only to avoid defeat by a six-goal margin to secure qualification. With Djibouti's withdrawal having left just three teams, this is the final match of a section that the Elephants - who have claimed maximum points without conceding a goal - lead by three points from their opponents.
Group 2 - Egypt on the brink
Defending champions Egypt can secure qualification with victory over Burundi in a fixture postponed from June. A point clear of a Botswana side who must visit Egypt next month, the Pharoahs welcome back striker Mido but are missing his fellow forward Mohamed Zidan due to a foot injury.
Group 3 - Spotlight on Kampala
With Nigeria already assured first place, the focus is on the Nelson Mandela stadium in Kampala where some 60,000 fans will watch Uganda host Niger aiming to bolster their hopes of finishing among the best three runners-up. Victory will move Uganda on to 11 points but a big score would also help given the possibility of goal difference deciding who heads to Ghana.
Group 4 - Summit meeting in Sudan
With 13 and 12 points respectively, both Sudan and Tunisia have already qualified but their meeting in Omdurman on Sunday will decide which team advances as group winners. Tunisia have not conceded a goal in five matches but they can expect a fierce test against Sudan, whose success in qualifying has been mirrored by the fortunes of club side Al Hilal, surprise semi-finalists in the CAF Champions League.
Group 5 - Minnows chasing dream
Having taken seven points from five games, Equatorial Guinea retain an outside chance of reaching their first continental finals but to keep that dream alive they must beat group winners Cameroon on Sunday. That could prove easier said than done against the Indomitable Lions. Save for the absence of injured strikers Samuel Eto'o and Achille Webo, coach Jules Nyongha has taken his strongest possible squad to Malabo, where the home supporters should see a home debut for Real Madrid starlet Javier Balboa, capped for the first time in Rwanda in June.
Group 6 - Eritrea on a mission
Eritrea are another second-placed side harbouring hopes of qualification as one of the best runners-up but they will need a handsome win over Swaziland in Manzini on Sunday to stand any chance of making it to Ghana. "We want to qualify for the Nations Cup in Ghana next year. Not that we're taking Swaziland lightly, but our mission is clear - we need to win this one at all costs," said Eritrea coach Haile Taber, whose charges have eight points, five adrift of group winners Angola.
Group 7 - Senegal a step away
No group is more closely contested than this one which features three teams all capable of claiming first place. Leaders Senegal have eight points and can secure top spot with a home victory over Burkina Faso but should they slip up, both Tanzania - also on eight points - and Mozambique - two points further back - could yet leapfrog them. Tanzania host Mozambique in the other game but the visitors travelled to Dar Es Salaam under a cloud following the death in a car accident of defender Nando. He was killed along with his wife and two children driving back to Maputo from his South African club Black Leopards on Sunday.
Group 8 - Tight at the top
Guinea and Algeria are level on eight points at the group summit ahead of their final matches against Cape Verde Islands and Gambia respectively. The Guineans, leaders on goal difference after winning in Algeria, have been buoyed by the availability of captain Pascal Feinduono who had been doubtful because of injury. Coach Robert Nouzaret also has defender Dianbobo Balde back for a match Guinea go into knowing that any slip-up could let in Algeria. The North African team welcome back Hameur Bouazza for their visit to Gambia and will hope to improve on their poor recent away record - while keeping their fingers crossed for good news from Conakry.
Group 9 - Matches postponed
Mali, Togo and Benin all retain a shout of winning the section but their last set of matches has been postponed to 12 October because of elections in Sierra Leone this weekend.
Group 10 - Striker boost for Congo DR
Congo DR go into the final round with eight points, one clear of both Namibia and their opponents on Sunday, Libya. Victory over the Libyans will secure their ninth successive appearance in the continental showpiece and the prospect of Lomana Tresor Lua Lua and Shabani Nonda teaming up in attack for the first time in two years has boosted Congolese hopes further. The duo are among 14 players called up from European clubs as Congo seek to assure their progress. Second-placed Namibia must beat Ethopia and hope for a draw in the match in Kinshasa.
Group 11 - McCarthy returns
Benni McCarthy's return from a self-imposed international exile of 18 months has given the South Africa squad a lift as they look to secure the point they need against second-placed Zambia to earn their seventh consecutive Nations Cup berth.
Group 12 - Job done
With Morocco already qualified, this three-team section concludes with the meeting of Zimbabwe and Malawi in Bulawayo - a fixture that the hosts go into with new coach Norman Mapeza at the helm.