Group A is bound to be a fierce showdown between two FIFA World Cup™ veterans. Cameroon and Morocco both hold the continent's best record in the world's premier football competition, with five appearances for Cameroon and four for the North Africans in the finals. However, only one Lion can roar at the finish line when the Indomitable Lions and the Atlas Lions race for the one ticket on offer in the section. Following their failure to reach the Germany 2006 finals, their first absence from the world showpiece since 1990, Cameroon made an impressive comeback by reaching the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations against Egypt earlier this year and proved that they have a sound squad capable of making up for recent disappointments. On the other hand, their major obstacle will be a group of 30 or so Moroccan players operating in the best leagues of Europe. Not only that, but the Atlas Lions have prized coach Roger Lemerre pulling the strings, the Frenchman having taken over in August 2008 after six years in charge of Tunisia.
Cameroon: Having battled through to the last eight of the FIFA World Cup in Italy in 1990, Cameroon are the hot favourites to qualify for their sixth finals in South Africa. Their star-studded squad features the likes of world-class striker Samuel Eto'o and a host of talented expatriates plying their trade in Europe's top clubs. But coach Otto Pfister is still searching for a suitable partner for Eto'o in attack.
Morocco: By far the most prominent manager in African football, Roger Lemerre will be vying to lead Morocco to the FIFA World Cup for the second time. After guiding his native country, France, to victory at UEFA EURO 2000, he took charge of Tunisia in 2002 and led them to their first African crown after only two years in the job. He continued to manage them at the finals in Germany, and now, with his vast experience, the hiring of the Frenchman coincides with a renewed optimism in Moroccan football, the team having just about recovered from their last-gasp elimination by Tunisia on the road to Germany 2006.
Togo: Togo are a young footballing nation, and the Sparrowhawks have only recently found their wings by qualifying for their first FIFA World Cup finals in 2006. They will be like an open book for Cameroon coach Otto Pfister, who was their manager in 2006, and even the presence of an established star of the calibre of Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor will not be enough for Togo to be considered favourites in this difficult section.
Gabon: The Gabonese are coached by former France midfielder Alain Giresse, a key member of the side that finished fourth at Spain 1982, third at Mexico 1986 and stormed to victory at EURO 1984. It is doubtful that Giresse will be able to see his charges through to the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time in their history, but having to play in Libreville, where Ghana and Libya lost in the previous round, will be a tough test for their opponents.
The players to watch
Samuel Eto'o (CMR), Alexandre Song (CMR), Idriss Kameni (CMR), Marouane Chamakh (MOR), El-Armine Erbate (MOR) Daniel Cousin (GAB) and Emmanuel Adebayor (TOG)
The crunch match
Morocco-Cameroon: The last match in the section, this could determine which team qualifies. Roger Lemerre's side will, therefore, be concerned about the threat of the prolific Samuel Eto'o.
A look back
Morocco-Cameroon, 23 March 1988 : The last time the Atlas Lions squared off against the Indomitable Lions in the semi-finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, a solitary 80th-minute goal from midfielder Cyril Makanaky propelled Cameroon into their third successive final. It was a devastating result for Morocco in front of their own fans in Casablanca, before their conquerors went on to beat Nigeria in the decider.
Did you know?
Cameroon coach Otto Pfister has a wealth of experience on the continent. The German's adventure began in 1972, when he took charge of Rwanda, and he has been at the reins of eight African national teams in total, including, Senegal, Zaire, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo.
5 - The number of times Cameroon have made it to the FIFA World Cup™ - a record for an African side. The Indomitable Lions made their first appearance at Spain 1982, and competed at every world finals from Italy 1990 to Korea/Japan 2002.
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