Mozambique on the move

A jump-up of six places in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking will help the morale of the team, who are chasing a first-ever place at the FIFA World Cup™ finals which next year is being hosted in neighbouring South Africa.

After holding Nigeria to a draw in their opening tie of the final group phase in March, Mozambique's Mambas are brimming with confidence as they prepare for two matches on the road in June - first away against Tunisia on 6 June and then onto Kenya for a meeting in Nairobi on 20 June.

Mozambique are now in 80th place in the world standings, edging ever closer to their best-ever position of 66th, set some 12 years ago. The team are now well ahead of their average position of 104 and showing steady progress with each passing month. Indeed, Mozambique won the award in 2007 as the Best Mover in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, ahead of Norway and New Caledonia.

June will be a watershed month as the two away trips present a real examination of the extent of their potential. Mozambique have been flirting with African football's superpowers in recent years but the jury is still out on whether they have the credentials to join the elite ranks.

Head coach Mart Nooij insists his players believe they are genuine contenders for the next year's finals, perhaps drawing inspiration from the surprise qualification of Angola for the last world showpiece in Germany in 2006. Like Angola, Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony.

Close-knit group
The Dutch-born Nooij has assembled a tight-knit group of players, devoid of any real superstars but growing in confidence with each passing game. Winger Dominquez has just celebrated winning the South African premier league title with SuperSport United for a second successive year. He was also named the Player of the Year for the South African league last term.

Veteran captain Tico-Tico helped Jomo Cosmos to win the South African second division title while Dario Khan is on course for possible league honours in Egypt with his new club Ismaili. Simao, for his part, has carved out regular first team football for himself at Panathinaikos in Greece. But the bulk of the squad are home based, and drawn from clubs in the capital Maputo, which has been allowing Nooij a chance to work with the team on a frequent basis.

Indeed, he has been able to call up players every Wednesday for training sessions during the domestic season. "It has been extremely gratifying with the gesture of the clubs to release their players, which just shows how people here understand the importance of our task. The players have contributed positively and it makes me confident for the big tasks we have ahead," said the boss.