As host nation, South Africa are naturally assured of a place at their own FIFA World Cup™, and they could well be celebrating that fact after Sunday's Preliminary Draw pitted them against up-and-coming Equatorial Guinea and powerhouses Nigeria. Able to draw upon players including John Obi Mikel, Obafemi Martins and Nwankwo Kanu, the Super Eagles clearly have a richly talented and ambitious squad, and coach Berti Vogts is determined to put them back on the international map after a difficult spell over the last few years.South Africa trainer Carlos Alberto Parreira has fewer resources at his disposal, on the other hand, but the Brazilian can at least count upon proven performers Benni McCarthy and Quinton Fortune to help lead a team that disappointed in CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
The South Africans are destined to face immense public pressure and how they cope could well determine where they place in a section that, for them, at least, is all about securing a berth at the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea could easily play a role in deciding which of those two continental juggernauts tops the group. For their part, Sierra Leone will be happy with every single point they are able to collect.
Nigeria look to be a better side on paper, especially in physical terms, but South Africa will have their massive traditional support behind them, plus the experience of Parreira in the dugout. The hosts will also be anxious to impress, although the fact that they have already qualified could come into play.
Nigeria:Appointed in January 2007, Berti Vogts became the first foreigner to helm the Super Eagles since 2001. The team have gone through some rocky times since bursting on to the scene in 1994, but they look to be on the right track now with a good balance between youth and experience. They also boast a collection of players as gifted as ever, with individuals such as Taye Taiwo and Obi Mikel swelling their ranks.
Equatorial Guinea :The team on the rise, they broke into the Top 100 of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in May 2007. Spanish league stars Rodolfo Bodipo and Benjamin Zarandona are the key men and helped earn the side a place at the 2008 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
The players to watch
Benni McCarthy, (RSA), Nwanko Kanu (NGA), Rodolfo Bodipo (EQG), Mohamed Kallon (SLE).
The crunch match
South Africa-Nigeria. This match will reveal much about the popular fervour surrounding Bafana Bafana as they gear up to host the global showcase. Above all, though, it will be crucial for Parreira's men and they will need to come out on top to stay on course for theCAF Africa Cup of Nations.
A look back
Nigeria 4-0 South Africa, 31 January 2004, Monastir (Tunisia).South Africa's biggest ever loss to Nigeria sparked a troublesome three-year period for the losers, and it did little good for the Super Eagles either as they failed to go all the way.
0: the number of times Bafana Bafana have overcome Nigeria in competitive games. South Africa's only triumph came in a friendly in November 2004.
Did you know?
South Africa are already guaranteed a place at the next FIFA World Cup, but Group 4 will also decide who progresses to the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Parreira's side are desperate to stamp their ticket for Angola after their dismal failure in the previous campaign.
The South Africans were a disappointment in the qualifiers for next year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations and they will be under intense pressure to perform now, even if their presence at the 2010 FIFA World Cup is already assured. Meanwhile, Nigeria have what it takes to finish top and Equatorial Guinea could yet play kingmaker by registering one or more upsets. Which of the two favourites do you think will come unstuck in contests between these three sides? Click below on 'Add your comment' and give your opinion.