With just under 230 days to go until 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ kicks off in Johannesburg, 23 teams have already secured their places while the remaining nine are set to follow in the coming weeks. One thing that all those teams have in common is a world-class goalscorer among their ranks. Someone who invariably arrives right on cue to head, poke, slam or bundle the ball into the opposition's net.
The overall top scorer in qualifying for South Africa 2010 is Osea Vakatalesau. Taking part in his first ever FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, the Fiji striker netted 12 goals in just nine games, including an incredible six-goal haul against Tuvalu at the South Pacific Games in 2007, the tournament that forms the first stage of the OFC qualification campaign. No surprise then, that the 23-year old boasts a better international goal tally than any other player in Oceania with 36, although it will come as scant consolation as Fiji once again failed to secure a place at the finals.
Theofanis Gekas, on the other hand, has not yet given up hope of reaching South Africa. The Greek striker is hoping his side can book their ticket with victory over the Ukraine in the European Zone play-offs. If the Bayer Leverkusen marksman continues in the same rich vein of goalscoring form that he has displayed so far, then Greece are certainly in with a chance. The 29-year-old is, along with Vakatalesau, one of the few players around the world to have scored more goals than games played throughout the qualifying campaign.
The Greek star thumped in a whopping four goals against Latvia, just as Czech Republic striker Milan Baros (five goals in total) did against San Marino. The latter struck three within the space of 20 minutes in a 7-0 mauling and thus chalked up the fastest hat-trick of the entire European qualification race.
Hot on the heels of ten-goal Gekas were fellow talents Wayne Rooney (nine goals, England), Edin Dzeko (nine, Bosnia-Herzegovina), Miroslav Klose (seven, Germany) and David Villa (seven, Spain).
The African Zone qualifying competition also boasts an abundance of top-class striking talent. Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o and Emmanuel Adebayor are all renowned the world over for their goalscoring feats, but it was the somewhat lesser-known Moumouni Dagano who came out on top with ten goals. The Burkina Faso striker has netted 11 in total for his country and, somewhat curiously, seven of his last eight were scored between the 55th and 80th minute of matches.
Nevertheless, Dagano will not be gracing football's global showpiece with his presence next summer, although he can take some solace from the fact that he outgunned the likes of Frederic Kanoute (eight goals, Mali), Eto'o (eight, Cameroon), Razal Omotoyossi (seven, Benin) and even Drogba (seven, Cote d'Ivoire) in qualifying.
Rudis Corrales is another who will have to be content with his personal goalscoring achievements as, despite his eight strikes, El Salvador failed to qualify from the North, Central America and Caribbean section. The 29-year-old frontman sat atop the goalscoring charts for months and managed to hold on despite fierce competition from the likes of Carlos Pavon (seven gaols, Honduras), Luton Shelton (seven, Jamaica) and Jozy Altidore (six, USA).
By contrast, it was pure joy for Chilean striker Humberto Suazo. The 28-year-old not only took the South American top-scorer crown with his ten goals, but also celebrated qualifying for the FIFA World Cup with La Roja, the eighth time Chile have done so in their history. With competition from the likes of Luis Fabiano (nine goals, Brazil), Kaka (five, Brazil), Diego Forlan (seven, Uruguay) and Joaquin Botero (eight, Bolivia), Suazo was in good company. Still, the Brazilians just pipped Chile to the post both in terms of the table (Brazil 1st, Chile 2nd) and goals scored (34 to 33).
Last, but not least, our goalscoring trail takes us to Thailand, home of the top scorer in the Asian Zone qualifiers. Sarayoot Chaikamdee notched an impressive eight goals despite only appearing for a total 612 minutes, making him the most effective of any striker in FIFA World Cup qualifying, although his team were unable to book a place at the finals. Maksim Shatskikh of Uzbekistan matched Chaikamdee's efforts in front of goal, but - just like his Thai counterpart - will ultimately be watching next summer's finals from the comfort of his living room.
Have you noticed anything strange? Bizarrely, aside from Chile's Suazo and Greece's Gekas, who still has the chance of qualifying via the playoffs, none of the top scorers from the respective continental zones of Asia, Africa, Oceania and North, Central America and the Caribbean will be in action at South Africa 2010.