Top African teams chase places in last qualifying phase
JOHANNESBURG – Burkina Faso and Cameroon will be guaranteed progress into the last phase of the African zone World Cup qualifiers if they win their qualifying matches at the weekend.
The pair will join Nigeria as guaranteed qualifiers for round three of the African preliminaries, which will kick off next year and will decide the five countries to qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa.
Others like Angola, who were finalists at the 2006 tournament in Germany and African champions Egypt are in danger of early elimination if they lose away from home at the weekend.
A total of 21 qualifiers across 12 groups are being played this weekend, starting on Friday. It is the penultimate round of matches in the second round group phase.
Burkina Faso will ensure top place in Group Nine if they beat Tunisia in Ouagadougou to keep their 100 percent record.
They began their campaign with a shock away win in Tunisia in June and have continued on a winning streak which has given them a three-point lead in the standings. Saturday’s match pits their Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte against compatriot Humberto Coelho, taking charge of his first competitive match with Tunisia.
Cameroon will be without suspended striker Samuel Eto’o but should still be too strong for Cape Verde in Praia on Saturday.
An away win will ensure top place in Group One for the Indomitable Lions, whose failure to qualify for the 2006 finals came after they had competed in the four previous events.
Ghana, Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast all face tough away assignments.
Ghana are in Libya, who share to place in Group Five with them, while Senegal play in Algeria, who must win to keep alive their chances. Both matches are on Friday.
Mali have a full squad for their game in the Congo but the Ivorians are without Didier Drogba, who is recovering from a knee injury, for Sunday’s trip to Mozambique.
Angola will tumble out if they lose at Group Three leaders Benin and Egypt will have a difficult task in the final round in October if they lose away against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa.
Nigeria are already guaranteed top place in Group Four after four successive wins but play for pride against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The 2010 World Cup hosts face the embarrassment of sure elimination from the preliminaries if they do not win. Although already qualified for the finals as hosts, South Africa are participating in the World Cup qualifiers because they also serve to determine 16 finalists for the next African Nations Cup finals in Angola in 2010.
The 12 group winners and best eight second placed finishers advance to the last round of qualifiers.