Major contenders such as Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco and continental champions Egypt look well placed to progress to the last phase of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ preliminaries, but there might yet be a fairy tale or to two to tell after Sunday's contests in the Africa.
Swaziland, for example, are aiming to reach uncharted territory by beating Togo, while Burkina Faso aim to finish ahead of mighty Tunisia in their section, underlining once again the unpredictability of football in Africa. FIFA.com continues its focus on the weekend's matches, across the 12 groups, with a preview of games in groups seven to 12.
Group 7: It would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of FIFA World Cup qualifying in Africa were Côte d'Ivoire to be beaten in their last group game and have their chance to take top spot stymied. A home encounter against Madagascar is likely to deliver the point that the Elephants need to win the group, given they beat the islanders 6-0 at home last year. Chelsea ace Didier Drogba misses the match again through injury but there is still an overwhelming amount of attacking talent available to the Ivorians. Botswana and Mozambique chase second place when they meet in Gaborone. Both sides can still progress to the next phase but it is a must-win encounter for both the Mambas and the Zebras.
Group 8: With the expulsion of Ethiopia, the group has been reduced to three and Rwanda have completed their campaign with a credible nine points from a possible 12. However, they are still likely to be usurped at the head of the standings by Morocco, who host Mauritania in Rabat in the final game on Saturday. A single-goal win would be enough for Morocco to take top place in a successful start to the reign of veteran French coach Roger Lemerre.
Group 9: Burkina Faso and Tunisia are both likely to advance to the next stage, as either group winner or among the best-placed runners-up. The Burkinabe will seek to finish in a morale-boosting first but play away from home in Bujumbura against Burundi while Tunisia seek a goal fest in their game against Seychelles, who have lost all five of their qualifying games to date. Injury-hit Tunisia are to start Saturday's match at Rades with Racing Lens striker Issam Jomaa in attack alongside newcomer Mohamed Selliti.
Group 10: Mali sit in the driving seat in the group, sharing top place with Congo, but with potentially a much easier finish. Mali's star-studded squad, including the Spanish-based trio of Frederic Kanoute, Mahamadou Diarra and Seydou Keita, host bottom-placed Chad in Bamako on Saturday and should finish top. Congo are away at Sudan, who are three points behind in third place and can still grab second spot from their visitors if they win by two goals. Mali coach Stephen Keshi told FIFA.com: "This generation has the potential to provide Mali with what they have been looking for for the last 30 years. A place in the World Cup finals."
Group 11: Tiny Swaziland are living a dream, hoping they will get further than ever before in the FIFA World Cup preliminaries. The southern African kingdom can take top place in the group if they beat Togo in their final match, being played on neutral turf in Accra, Ghana. The odds are in their favour, with Togo's star Emmanuel Adebayor continuing his one-man boycott of the side. Swaziland's performances, meanwhile, have gone from strength to strength since Ephraim Mashaba took over as coach.
Group 12: Egypt are almost certain to finish top of the standings as they take on lowly Djibouti in their final game in Cairo on Sunday. It leaves Malawi and Congo DR to chase second place in Saturday's meeting in Blantyre. Malawi's Flames have home advantage and their two foreign-based strikers Russel Mwafulirwa and Esau Kanyenda return after missing their last game through injury. The Leopards, however, are also a formidable side, with a rich tradition in qualifying.
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