[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING]
There's one final round of preliminary group play in Africa this weekend, and almost everything still to play for. Only three out of
the 20 teams that will qualify for the final group phase have been decided.
Cameroon, Benin and Nigeria are already through as three of the 12 group winners. All 12 group winners are
guaranteed to progress, but only the eight best runners-up, so there will be some math to be done come Sunday to see which second-place teams fight on. In the final group phase, there will be five
groups of four teams. The five group winners qualify for South Africa 2010.
In Group One, the Cape Verde Islands could make a surprising leap to the final phase behind group winner
Cameroon if they pick up a point in Tanzania. In Group Two, leader Kenya travels to second-place Guinea needing a tie to top the group, while third-place Zimbabwe must win in Namibia and hope for a
Guinea defeat to have an outside chance of progressing in second place.
In Group Three, Germany 2006 qualifier Angola, whose coach Luis Goncalves
quit last weekend, must win at home to Niger in Luanda and hope that Uganda slips up at home to group winner Benin. In Group Four, Sierra Leone needs to hope that host and group winner
Nigeria is demotivated enough to allow it to grab three points and finish a healthy second.
In Group Five, Libya will win the group with a tie in Gabon, while 2006 qualifier Ghana
must win at home to last-place Lesotho to ensure second at the least. Group Six is equally tight, with Algeria in first with nine points just ahead of Gambia and Senegal (eight each). Key game:
Senegal vs Gambia on Saturday.
Ivory Coast will take Group Seven with a home point against Madagascar, which has to win to have a chance of progressing. Mozambique will have an
outside chance if it beats Botswana and Madagascar fails to win, but eight points in second place probably won't make it one of the eight best runners-up. In three-team Group Eight (Ethiopia dropped
out), Rwanda is top with nine points but no games left, while Morocco will leapfrog it by beating Mauritania by more than two goals. In that case, both countries will likely qualify.
Onward to Group Nine, which Burkina Faso will clinch with a point in Burundi, leaving Tunisia to take second with a likely home win over the Seychelles (no points so far). Group Ten is another close
call, with Mali favorite if it tops Chad at home, and Congo set to take second with a win or a tie at last-place Sudan.
Germany 2006 participant Togo will likely not progress even if
it beats Swaziland at home. The latter would overtake Group Eleven leader Zambia with a win. And finally, in Group Twelve, Egypt will be group winner with just a point at home to no-pointers
Djibouti. Malawi hosts the Democratic Republic of Congo in the match of the round -- both have nine points and will be scrapping for second. A tie will be enough for Malawi, which has the better