Desert Warriors date with destiny
© AFP

Going into their penultimate match in the final round of African Zone qualifying for the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010™, Group C leaders Algeria could clinch a first appearance at the finals since the golden generation of Rabah Madjer, Lakhdar Belloumi, Salah Assad and Co which featured at Mexico 1986.

Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) are currently three points clear of second-placed Egypt and host bottom side Rwanda on Saturday evening. The Pharaohs, meanwhile, face a tricky away test in Zambia, though the Zambians are missing key man Chris Katongo through suspension. African champions Egypt host Algeria in the pair's final group game on 14 November.

Underlining the competitive nature of African Zone qualifying is that with just two rounds of matches still to play only one team has their ticket to South Africa already in the bag. Adding further spice to the mix is the fact this qualifying phase is doubling up as a qualifier for the forthcoming CAF African Cup of Nations, due to kick off in Angola in January. This factor means that even teams such as Sudan and Rwanda, out of the running for the FIFA World Cup 2010, still have plenty to play for.

The big game
Cameroon-Togo, October 10 2009, Stade Omnisports Ahmadou-Ahidjo, Yaounde, 14:30 (GMT)

To date Group A has perhaps been the most fiercely contested of all the groups in the final round of African Zone qualifying, with this weekend's Cameroon vs Togo clash hugely important to the final standings. Can Inter Milan star Samuel Eto'o inspire the Indomitable Lions to victory over the Togolese Sparrowhawks and strengthen their grip on top spot?

Following last month's home and away victories over section rivals Gabon, who are still just one point behind, French coach Paul Le Guen appears to have steadied the ship since taking the Cameroon helm. Togo, for their part, were left ruing an injury-time Moroccan equaliser in their last game, a result which left them two points behind Eto'o and Co. Indeed, Le Guen's charges can clinch qualification this week if they beat Togo and Gabon lose at home to Morocco.

For another Frenchman, recently appointed Togo coach Hubert Velud, this will be his first game at the helm following the departure of Belgian supremo Jean Thissen. The new boss will be looking to the likes of Moustapha Salifou, Mohamed Kader and of course Manchester City star Emmanuel Adebayor to inspire the Sparrowhawks to only their second FIFA World Cup finals appearance, following their debut at Germany 2006.

Staying in Group A, Gabon coach Alain Giresse, who graced the France midfield at two FIFA World Cups, knows his team would do their hopes of a first ever appearance at world football's top table a power of good by picking up all three points at home to Morocco. Though the visitors are virtually out of the hunt for a place in South Africa, the Atlas Lions can still reach Angola 2010 and must therefore not be discounted.

Elsewhere
In Group B, the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia have a two-point lead over the Nigerian Super Eagles, who are running the risk of missing out on their second successive FIFA World Cup finals. The table-topping duo host Kenya and Mozambique respectively on Sunday.

Over in Group E, Côte d'Ivoire need just one point from their visit to Malawi on Saturday to clinch their place in South Africa next year, which would be their second successive finals appearance, after winning all four of their four group encounters thus far.

Turning to another 100 per cent side and we have Group D pace-setters Ghana, who have already booked their passage to South Africa and will be looking to make in five wins from five in Benin on Sunday.

The player
Algerian forward Rafik Saifi is considered one of the most gifted players ever to pull on the green shirt, though he never became a household name in Europe. His class and skill did however win him many admirers during his decade-long stay in the French league, which took in spells at Troyes, Istres, Ajaccio and Lorient. Les Fennecs' No10 has recently made the switch to Qatari football with Al Khor and at 34 years of age would dearly love to crown his career by captaining his country at South Africa 2010.

The stat
23 -
The number of years since Algeria's veteran coach Rabah Saadane led the Desert Foxes at Mexico 1986. The supremo's status would surely be elevated to superstar should he succeed in taking the country back to the global showpiece once more.

The words
"The initial objective was to be ahead of Nigeria going into the final two games. We are in that position now and having put in so much effort, we can't let it slip. We'll have the fans behind us against Kenya and I'd much rather be in our position than Nigeria's." Tunisia's Fahid Ben Khalfallah in a recent interview with FIFA.com.

The fixtures
Saturday October 10
Zambia-Egypt
Malawi-Côte d'Ivoire
Cameroon-Togo
Gabon-Morocco

Sunday October 11
Nigeria-Mozambique
Tunisia-Kenya
Benin-Ghana
Guinea-Burkina Faso
Mali-Sudan
Algeria-Rwanda