Burkina Faso are guaranteed a place in the final phase of the African qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ if they produce another upset win over Tunisia this weekend. ‘Les Etalons' are one of only two teams with a 100 percent record in the qualifiers; the others, Nigeria, have already made sure of their progress to next year's third round of the continental preliminaries.
The Burkinabe are not the only team on the brink of progression to the next phase, however, with Côte d'Ivoire and Morocco both looking set to advance. FIFA.com casts its eye over the state of play in Groups 7 to 12 before the penultimate set of second round group matches.
Group 7: Without Didier Drogba, Aruna Dindane and Arouna Kone, there is a danger that Côte d'Ivoire will lack the firepower they need to overcome a determined Mozambique team when the two meet in Maputo on Sunday. The Ivorians have a healthy three point lead in the group, and can secure top place with a win. Mozambique, however, can fight their way back into contention with three points themselves. Botswana and Madagascar are still in with a mathematical chance, although both sides need to win their meeting on Sunday in Antananarivo. The Malagasy have had problems with their foreign-based players, and have dropped three key players for the match.
Group 8: Morocco's meeting with Ethiopia has been postponed because of the FIFA ban on the Ethiopian Football Federation, presenting Rwanda with a chance to take over the leadership of the group. The Amavubi Stars have three wins under their belt already, but are still seeking to shake off a reputation of being vulnerable on the road. They did win in Ethiopia, but must now also triumph in Nouakchott. Returning to the team for the first time in two years is Belgian-based striker Henri Munyaneza, who is likely to join Olivier Karekezi up front.
Group 9: The match-up between Burkina Faso and Tunisia pits two Portuguese coaches, Paulo Duarte and Humberto Coelho, against each other. It is the first competitive game for Coelho, who has replaced Roger Lemerre as coach of Tunisia. His plans have been disrupted by injury to two key players, the youthful striker Amine Chermiti and Brazil-born Francileudo dos Santos, who has been a stalwart for his adopted country over the years. In the Seychelles, the home side will look to secure their first point of the campaign after four successive defeats. Ulrich Mathiot returns as coach after the brief tenure of Dutchman Jan Mak.
Group 10: Mali's side is packed with top class talent, including reigning African Footballer of the Year Frederic Kanoute, Mahamadou Diarra and Seydou Keita, suggesting that the ‘Aigles' are set to become a new continental superpower. But their credentials will be severely tested in Brazzaville by Congo, who lie second in the group. Back into the Congo line-up comes giant defender Christopher Samba and veteran German-based midfielder Rolf-Christel Guie-Mien. Chad and Sudan will play each other in Cairo on both Saturday and Wednesday, after being ordered to play at a neutral venue after the recent political disagreements between the two neighbours.
Group 11: Zambia's match against Togo has been postponed to Wednesday, 10 September because of the official period of mourning for the recently deceased Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa. It will be played at Chililabombwe in the north of the country, with Zambia guaranteed top place in their group if they win. Togo's preparations are in turmoil after their coach Henri Stambouli quit last weekend. He cited a lack of proper preparation among the causes of his departure. Swaziland have a bye in the three-team group.
Group 12: Kinshasa's cavernous Martyrs stadium is expected to be packed to the rafters for the visit of African champions Egypt on Sunday. The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Pharaohs are joint leaders in the standings, but have Malawi, just three points behind, breathing down their necks. Both DR Congo and Egypt are at full strength for the game, which could attract a crowd in excess of 80,000. Malawi travel to Djibouti, whom they defeated 8-1 in May, for their match on Friday.
McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor
Austria-France, Argentina-Paraguay and Chile-Brazil are among the matches on the opening round of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning a fanstastic trip to South Africa 2010.