Joy and pain in Africa

A group of 20 teams advanced into the concluding round of African Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after an eventful weekend. Along with the perennial crop of heavyweights, including nine previous FIFA World Cup finals participants, the likes of Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sudan also progressed; indication of the constantly shifting power balance on the continent.

Senegal are certainly aware of this. Just six years ago, they became only the second African side to reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup, but they failed to make the final cut following a 1-1 draw at home to Gambia on Saturday.

Diomansy Kamara, who plays his club football for Fulham in the English Premier League, believes the failure marks the end of a generation for the Lions of Teranga. "There will now be three years without competition until the next qualifiers and for many of the players who are over the age of 28, it means the end of their international career," he explained. "From the beginning of the qualifiers things did not work out for us."

Congo DR also miss out after a 2-1 loss in Malawi. As Zaire, the country qualified for Germany 1974 to become Africa's first sub-Saharan side to compete at the FIFA World Cup. But although they have come close since, it remains their only appearance on the sport's grandest stage.

Mozambique had little hope of making it to the final phase of qualifying, even after they had beaten Botswana in Gaborone on Saturday in one of only three away wins of the weekend's 22 African preliminaries. Coach Mart Nooij revealed they were only told that Sunday's sequence of
results had fallen perfectly in their favour, and allowed them to
qualify as the last best runners-up, when they got back to Maputo after a long day's travel.

"It was a narrow escape but I think we played well in all six of our
qualifiers. We didn't have much luck in the first three games but if
you are willing to play offensive football then in the end it pays
off," said the Dutchman.

The 20 sides will go into the draw, to be held in Zurich at the Home of FIFA on 22 October, when they will be divided into five groups of four. The group winners qualify directly for South Africa 2010, and the top three in each section will reach the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Angola 2010.