While Europe looks forward to UEFA EURO 2008, the continent of Africa has its sights firmly set on the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. This weekend sees the start of the second round of qualifying games and FIFA.com is gearing up to bring you live and exclusive coverage.
No fewer than four of the six matchdays in this new qualifying round will take place in June. And at the end of it all only the sides finishing top of the 12 groups and the eight best second-placed teams will advance to the next round.
It goes without saying, then, that the next few weeks will be vital to the hopes of those teams aiming to make it to the main event in two years' time.
Nigeria-South Africa, Abuja, Sunday 1 June, 17.00
The Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana will do battle in Group 4 with Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, and the meetings between these two giants of the African game will surely have a major impact on the final standings.
In hosting the first of the two duels, the Nigerians have been handed a slight advantage. With their ebullient fans cheering them on, new coach Shaibu Amodu and his men will be hoping to steal a march on their main rivals by drawing on their vast experience and an encouraging performance at Ghana 2008, where the hosts brought an end to their run to in the quarter-finals.
Facing them will be a South Africa side whose main aims in these qualifiers will be to tune up for their FIFA World Cup finals party and secure a place at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. With Carlos Alberto Parreira having vacated the hotseat for personal reasons, Joel Santana will be out to stamp his authority on an up-and-coming side.
The two teams have met twice before on Nigerian soil, with the hosts winning both times. The first of those successes was a 4-0 win in a qualifier for the FIFA World Cup USA 1994 back in October 1992, and the second a 2-0 victory in a Cup of Nations qualifying match in Lagos in 2000.
Play by play, minute by minute, you will not miss a thing as the race for South Africa 2010 unfolds.