Tunisia head a list of the leading contenders who face potentially dangerous matches against some of Africa's lesser-known nations, all keen to garner a scalp or two in the early FIFA World Cup qualifying exchanges.
Already, the Tunisians have been left reeling by an opening day defeat at home to Burkina Faso, and they travel to the Seychelles unsure of what to expect against the ever-improving Indian Ocean island's national team.. There are also perilous trips for African champions Egypt, Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco and Mali, whose side is brimming with stars and are aiming to become the continent's new force.
FIFA.com takes a look at the qualifying matches in Africa this weekend in groups 7 to 12.
Group 7: Madagascar are brimming with confidence after forcing an away point in their opening qualifier against Botswana last weekend and now go after a much larger scalp when they host Côte d'Ivoire on Sunday. "We are ready to defend the colours of our country," veteran captain Mamisoa Razafindrakoto said on the eve of the game, "but we need the public to get behind us." Some 40,000 spectators are expected to pack the Stade Municipal Mahamasina in the capital for the game even though the Ivorians are without star attraction Didier Drogba, who masterminded a 3-0 win at the same venue a year ago in the 2008 CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. Mozambique host Botswana in Maputo on Sunday seeking their first points after losing to the Ivorians last weekend. Botswana fired their coach Colwyn Rowe on Tuesday after dropping home points against the Malagasy.
Group 8: Ethiopia and Mauritania have home advantage at the weekend as they seek to get their campaign off the ground following identical 3-0 defeats last week. For Mauritanians, that is a difficult task as they host group favourites Morocco in Nouakchott on Saturday, while Ethiopia appear to stand a better chance against Rwanda in Addis Ababa on Sunday. However, Rwanda's Amavubi Stars are on a confident high after a bright start. "We still have a lot to prove as a team as well as a nation," said Rwanda captain Olivier Karekezi. Morocco travel the short trip to Mauritania without Nabil Dirar and Karim Ahmadi, who are out with injury.
Group 9: Africa's smallest country, the
Seychelles, may have to feel the effects of Tunisia's bruised
egos when they two counties meet in Victoria on Saturday. The north
Africans, who have qualified for the last three FIFA World Cup
finals, suffered a surprise setback last weekend in their opening
group match with a 2-1 home defeat by Burkina Faso. It led to the
temporary sacking of outgoing coach Roger Lemerre, but he was
reinstated after 24 hours with just three games left to go on his
contract. Tunisia this week appointed Humberto Coelho as their new
coach from July 1 and the Portuguse coach is traveling to the
Seychelles to watch the match and learn more about his new charges.
The Burkinabe can extend their lead at the top of the standings if
they beat Burundi in Ouagadougou on Saturday night. The victory
over Tunisia has energised their players, although French-based
striker Moumouni Dagano insisted nothing is being taken for
granted: "I think it's a new start for us but we can't
afford to drop our concentration the match against Burundi."
Group 10: Having had their derby postponed last weekend, Chad and Sudan make a belated start to their respective qualifying campaigns this weekend with Chad hosting Mali in N'djamena on Saturday while Sudan travel to Brazzaville to take on the Congo 24 hours later. Mali made an impressive start with a 4-2 win over the Congolese last weekend in a winning debut for new coach Stephen Keshi, who felt his side played well for the first hour but lost a little direction in the closing stages of the game. It will be the first home match for new Congo coach Ivica Todorov, who had extensive preparations with the squad in France and who will be keen to impress supporters after a disappointing start in Bamako.
Group 11: Swaziland have been excitedly awaiting the arrival of Togo, and more specifically the English-based striker Emmanuel Adebayor, for Sunday's match at the Somhlolo stadium. For the Swazi national team, it is a first outing in the 2010 qualifying campaign but the team is being overshadowed by the Adebayor fever. The Arsenal striker has a major profile in the small southern African kingdom, where English club football is keenly followed. Swaziland play their first match under new coach Ephraim Mashaba, who told his players on Thursday: "We need to be focused, committed and have passion." With Eritrea having withdrawn, Zambia have a weekend off before heading to Swaziland next weekend.
Group 12: Extreme heat should prove the only major obstacle for African champions Egypt as they meet Djibouti away on Friday. The sultry conditions could inhibit a predicted goal deluge for the Pharaohs against the tiny Red Sea state. Egypt striker Amr Zaki is the only injury concern for the game, which is expected to be played in temperatures around the 40-degree mark. On Sunday, Congo DR host Malawi in Kinshasa without striker Lomana LuaLua, who underwent an emergency appendix operation on Monday. Malawi captain Peter Mponda is schedule to return after suffering a knock before their 8-1 win over Djibouti last Saturday.