Across the African continent, players have been reporting for duty in recent days, eagerly anticipating the start of their qualifying campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Some sides are also camped in Europe, fine-tuning their preparations before they return to Africa for the 23 matches scheduled from Cairo in the north to as far south as the Botswana capital Gaborone.
Reigning African champions Egypt are warming up at home, as are the South Africa 2010 hosts, who participate because the preliminaries are being used to also determine the 16 finalists for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Angola 2010. But the likes of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Islands, DR Congo and Nigeria have been taking the pressure off their players by seeking the tranquility of a neutral venue to practice, before setting off on their respective FIFA World Cup expeditions.
Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia have travelled almost halfway round the world for their preparations, the Elephants participating in a three-nation tournament with Paraguay and hosts Japan, and Ghana's Black Stars going to Australia for a friendly in Sydney on the eve of the FIFA Congress. Zambia drew in Libya and then flew to Teheran to pay Iran in two warm-up matches under new coach Herve Renard before arriving in Accra, Ghana, where they meet Togo on neutral ground in their opening Group 11 match on Saturday.
Former FIFA World Cup finalists Algeria have a tough opener in Group 6 against Senegal in Dakar and have been preparing under Rabah Saadane at Lisses near Paris. They were joined at the weekend by Brahim Hemdani, the Rangers and former Marseille midfielder who is set for an international debut at the age of 30. Senegal, meanwhile, are cloistered in a military camp at Ouakam in the west African country
Burkina Faso and the Cape Verde Islands, who both have new Portuguese coaches, played each other in Alcochete, Portugal at the weekend and the islanders have since gone on to Luxembourg for another friendly international warm-up. For Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte, it is a chance to see what talent he has at his disposal. That is why he has had 32 players in camp before the Group 9 game away against Tunisia at Rades on Sunday.