Festering frustration at missing out on the last FIFA World Cup™ finals will provide ample motivation for the likes of Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria ahead of the start of this weekend's group phase of the African qualifiers for South Africa 2010.
Africa will have a record six representatives in the continent's first global showpiece and although one of those berths is guaranteed for hosts South Africa, there remains a powerful incentive for the Fennecs, Indomitable Lions and Super Eagles to ensure they claim one of the remaining five.
Saturday and Sunday will see 22 matches played across Africa as the bulk of entrants make a debut into the 2010 preliminaries. FIFA.com brings you a group-by-group analysis.
Group 1: Cameroon play for the first time since losing to Egypt in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations final in February and have a familiar-looking squad for Saturday's game in Yaounde against the Cape Verde Islands. Captain Rigobert Song begins his bid to play in a fourth FIFA World Cup finals, having first appeared at USA 1994. Experience is also provided by three-time African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto'o against a Cape Verdian side that has underwent sweeping changes since the appointment of Joao de Deus. Mauritius are another side looking to the future and Ashok Chundunsing caused a surprise when he named just two expatriate players in his group of 18 for the match at Tanzania. The Taifa Stars warmed up for the game with a 1-1 home draw against Malawi last Sunday.
Group 2: The return of captain Pascal Feindouno from suspension will be a major boost to favourites Guinea's prospects in a group where all four sides will feel they have a chance of topping the standings. The Syli Nationale, who have recently renewed the contract of their veteran French coach Robert Nouzaret, host Zimbabwe in Conakry on Sunday. Zimbabwe will look to the leadership of Benjani Mwaruwari and certainly arrive with a strong squad. In the other match, Namibia host Kenya in Windhoek on Saturday. Kenya's preparations for their trip have been hindered by ongoing off-field disputes but new coach Francis Kimanzi does have Auxerre striker Denis Oliech and captain Robert Mambo available. Namibia midfielder Oliver Risser is out with an ankle injury but the Brave Warriors squad will be boosted by the presence of Hamburg midfielder Colin Benjamin. The match marks the home debut for Dutch coach Ari Schaans, who took charge just a month before Namibia's appearance in January's Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Group 3: Luis Oliveira Goncalves has warned an
expectant Angolan side and their supporters that hard work will be
needed if they are to emulate their surprise qualification for
Germany 2006. The
Palancas Negras start their bid at home to Benin on
Sunday, with Oliveira Goncalves naming a strong squad for the
match. Benin, meanwhile, have named Belgian Patrick Aussems as
their caretaker coach and are hoping to hand a debut to 20-year-old
Monaco reserve Yannick Sagbo. Uganda host Niger in
Kampala on Saturday, renewing their rivalry from the last Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign. The Ugandans will look to David Obua for inspiration, with the South Africa-based striker having scored a hat-trick against Niger last September.
Group 4: Abuja stages arguably the tie of the weekend when the continent's two economic superpowers, Nigeria and South Africa, face off on Sunday. Even with South Africa already guaranteed a place at their own party, this meeting has a competitive edge and is expected to attract a continent-wide television audience estimated at some 100 million. The Brazilian Joel Santana makes his debut in charge of Bafana Bafana, while Shaibu Amodu is back at the helm of the Super Eagles, having qualified Nigeria for the 2002 FIFA World Cup only to be fired before he could lead them on to the Far East. In Malabo on Sunday, Equatorial Guinea, hoping to have Rodolpo Bodipo back from injury, host Sierra Leone, playing their first competitive match under new coach Ahmed Kanu.
Group 5: The influence of Claude Le Roy on Ghana over the last two years comes under the microscope in Kumasi on Sunday as the 2006 FIFA World Cup finalists host Libya in their first qualifier. Le Roy recently departed the job, turning down an invitation to extend his contract to leave Sillas Tetteh as caretaker coach and Ghana seemingly vulnerable to an upset. The Black Stars do, however, have Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari back after missing last week's friendly in Australia, while Libya go into the game on the back of a handsome 4-2 win over Liberia in their last warm-up match. While Le Roy has departed, his compatriot Alain Giresse has gone back on his decision to quit as coach of Gabon and takes charge of the meeting in Libreville on Saturday against Lesotho. Giresse will be hanging his hopes on temperamental striker Daniel Cousin, while Lesotho's side, made up of locally based players, play a first competitive match under new coach Zavisa Milosaljivich.
Group 6: Algeria went to the FIFA World Cup finals in 1982 and 1986 and were continental champions in1990 but have tumbled down African football's ladder over the last decade. One of their past FIFA World Cup heroes, Rabah Saadane, is back to take charge of the side again and there have been extensive preparations in a bid to return to past glories. A tough debut to their latest FIFA World Cup campaign awaits in Dakar on Saturday against Senegal. The Lions of Teranga, quarter-finalists at 2002 FIFA World Cup finals, are also in a state of flux with a caretaker coach and a changing of the guard in their playing personnel. On Sunday, Liberia host Gambia in the other group game in Monrovia.