Twenty teams will line up in the final phase of African Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. With Nigeria safely through, the scrap to finish top of the other 11 pools or claim one of the eight best runners-up berths will intensify this weekend. Twenty-one games will make up the menu in Round 2's penultimate matchday, and FIFA.com is here to preview those unfolding in Groups 1 to 6.
Group 1: Cameroon will make sure of top spot if they beat Cape Verde Islands in Praia on Saturday. But what on paper would seem a routine assignment for a team of the Indomitable Lions' status is far from a straightforward task. The Cape Verdeans have proven feisty opponents, and also have hopes of making it through to the next phase. Three wins in their four matches to date demonstrate the remarkable progress achieved by Portuguese coach Joao de Deus. The meeting between Mauritius and Tanzania in Curepipe is of academic interest only.
Group 2: The outcome of this group will likely be determined on the final matchday in October, but Kenya and Zimbabwe will be seeking to use home advantage to maneuver themselves into favourable positions. The latter have been told they need to tighten up on discipline if they are to beat Guinea in Harare on Sunday. "This game is like a cup final," said Zimbabwe's Brazilian coach Valinhos. Kenya, who share the group lead with Guinea, will expect to beat Namibia at home.
Group 3: It is a crunch weekend for Angola, whose dreams of a second successive trip to the sport's showpiece event will end if they lose in Benin on Sunday. Black Antelopes coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves departed for Cotonou in determined mood. "We will throw away caution, we are going for victory," he declared. "It is going to be a hard game and Benin are difficult adversaries, but our objective is to win." Uganda's hopes of staying in contention also rest on avoiding defeat when they visit Niger, who have yet to collect a point in the campaign. Benin lead on nine points, two clear of both Angola and Uganda.
Group 4: Nigeria have already banked pole position, but still have pride to play for when they meet South Africa in Port Elizabeth. The Super Eagles squad for Saturday's game has been depleted by injury, while South Africa have doubts over the fitness of key striker Benni McCarthy. Sierra Leone will strive to unseat the South Africans from second position when they entertain Equatorial Guinea in Freetown on Saturday. Equatorial Guinea lost three successive qualifiers in June, and have appointed former Spanish international Vicente Engonga as their new coach.
Group 5: The top-of-the-table battle between Libya and Ghana is one of the main attractions of the weekend's packed programme, pitting Faouzi Benzarti's ambitious charges against the formidable Black Stars. The Ghanaians have recalled Stephen Appiah after a nine-month absence, although they will be hindered by the absence of defender John Mensah, which could dictate that Michael Essien operates at the back. Libya have put in extensive preparation for Friday's match in Tripoli, scoring nine goals in two friendlies last month. Gabon, three points behind the top two, will keep their hopes alive if they beat Lesotho.
Group 6: Algeria may be former continental champions and two-time FIFA World Cup participants, but their reputation has suffered in recent years. Failure to win at home to Senegal in Blida on Sunday will sharpen their decline, and all but end hope of reaching South Africa 2010. Rabah Saadane has assembled his strongest squad in years, largely owing to the returns of Brahim Hemdani and Nader Belhadj, but the coach admits it will nevertheless be tough against the Lions of Teranga. "The quality of our play and our behaviour on the field must be at the highest level," said Saadane. Gambia are still eying a ticket to the next phase, and will be fancied to beat Liberia in Banjul on Saturday, a result which would move Paul Put's impressive squad into contention.
McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor
Austria-France, Argentina-Paraguay and Chile-Brazil are among the matches on the opening round of the McDonald's FIFA World Cup Predictor. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up and take a shot at winning a fanstastic trip to South Africa 2010.