Twenty-five months after African qualifying for the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup™ began, its three remaining places alongside Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana will be seized this weekend.
One will go to Cameroon or Gabon, with Tunisia or Nigeria clinching another. However, the biggest attraction on the concluding matchday will unfold in Cairo, where fierce rivals Egypt and Algeria will collide for a ticket to South Africa 2010. The final ten African preliminaries will also sort out the final field for the forthcoming CAF African Cup of Nations, due to kick off in Angola in January.
The big game
Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Saturday, 20:30 (CET)
Algeria have failed to qualify for the last two African Cup of Nations tournaments, which were both won by Egypt, but the tables have turned over this past year. The Desert Foxes lead Group C by three points from their arch-rivals, and have a plus-seven goal difference compared to the Pharaohs’ plus-three.
This means the latter can afford a single-goal defeat and still qualify. However, a two-goal victory for Egypt would result in the teams being tied on goal difference and goals scored, and would duly force a play-off in Sudan on 18 November.
Both sides have injury doubts, with the biggest-name potential absentee Egypt midfielder Hosni Abd Rabou, who picked up a knock to his ankle at the weekend. It was Abd Rabou who was the player of the tournament when Egypt retained their African crown in Ghana last year, and it was his goal away to Zambia last month that maintained their hopes of pipping Algeria to top spot in Group C.
Tunisia have a two-point lead over Nigeria in Group B and will qualify for a fourth successive FIFA World Cup if they beat Mozambique in Maputo. However, if they slip up, the Super Eagles will finish top if they beat Kenya in Nairobi.
Cameroon have made a remarkable recovery in Group A, flying from bottom to top, and they will qualify for an African-record sixth world finals if they win in Morocco. Gabon, one point back in second, will have to overcome Togo in Lome and hope the Indomitable Lions stumble in Fes.
Group E winners Côte d'Ivoire finish their campaign at home to Guinea, while Group D conquerors Ghana will use Sunday's game at home to Mali to experiment with several players from their recent FIFA U-20 World Cup-winning side.
Egyptian striker Emad Moteab has been out of action for the last six months with a serious knee injury, but has timed his return to perfection. With the Pharaohs needing at least a two-goal winning margin over Algeria to have any chance of FIFA World Cup qualification, his pace and guile could be decisive. Moteab scored twice for his country on 5 November, as they beat Tanzania 5-1 in a warm-up game to raise their confidence.
5 - The number of times Cameroon have appeared at the FIFA World Cup. They made their debut in 1982 and became the first African side to reach the quarter-finals eight years later. The Indomitable Lions were also present at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 editions.
"This might surprise you, but I'm anxious to get to Cairo and soak up the atmosphere at the stadium. We are all impatient and are preparing for one of the biggest games we'll ever play in. We hope to have the right form for the game against Egypt," Algeria’s Yacine Bezzaz.
Saturday 14 November
Sunday 15 November