With Europe getting their World Cup qualification schedule under way, I thought it'd be fitting to see where Africa is in their drive to South Africa. Remember, the Africans started their Cup qualification months ago.
So how fares Africa?
Apart from Nigeria who have already booked their place into the next stage out of Group 4, the qualifiers remain very contested with many surprises expected this weekend.
Group 1: Cameroon will make sure of top spot if they beat Cape Verde Islands in Praia on Saturday. But what on paper would seem a routine assignment for a team of the Indomitable Lions' status is far from a straightforward task. The Cape Verdeans have proven feisty opponents, and also have hopes of making it through to the next phase. Three wins in their four matches to date demonstrate the remarkable progress achieved by Portuguese coach Joao de Deus. The meeting between Mauritius and Tanzania in Curepipe is of academic interest only.
Group 2: The outcome of this group will likely be determined on the final matchday in October, but Kenya and Zimbabwe will be seeking to use home advantage to maneuver themselves into favourable positions. The latter have been told they need to tighten up on discipline if they are to beat Guinea in Harare on Sunday. "This game is like a cup final," said Zimbabwe's Brazilian coach Valinhos. Kenya, who share the group lead with Guinea, will expect to beat Namibia at home.
Group 3: It is a crunch weekend for Angola, whose dreams of a second successive trip to the sport's showpiece event will end if they lose in Benin on Sunday. Black Antelopes coach Luis Oliveira Goncalves departed for Cotonou in determined mood. "We will throw away caution, we are going for victory," he declared. "It is going to be a hard game and Benin are difficult adversaries, but our objective is to win." Uganda's hopes of staying in contention also rest on avoiding defeat when they visit Niger, who have yet to collect a point in the campaign. Benin lead on nine points, two clear of both Angola and Uganda.
Group 4: Nigeria have already banked pole position, but still have pride to play for when they meet South Africa in Port Elizabeth. The Super Eagles squad for Saturday's game has been depleted by injury, while South Africa have doubts over the fitness of key striker Benni McCarthy. Sierra Leone will strive to unseat the South Africans from second position when they entertain Equatorial Guinea in Freetown on Saturday. Equatorial Guinea lost three successive qualifiers in June, and have appointed former Spanish international Vicente Engonga as their new coach.
Group 5: The top-of-the-table battle between Libya and Ghana is one of the main attractions of the weekend's packed programme, pitting Faouzi Benzarti's ambitious charges against the formidable Black Stars. The Ghanaians have recalled Stephen Appiah after a nine-month absence, although they will be hindered by the absence of defender John Mensah, which could dictate that Michael Essien operates at the back. Libya have put in extensive preparation for Friday's match in Tripoli, scoring nine goals in two friendlies last month. Gabon, three points behind the top two, will keep their hopes alive if they beat Lesotho.
Group 6: Algeria may be former continental champions and two-time FIFA World Cup participants, but their reputation has suffered in recent years. Failure to win at home to Senegal in Blida on Sunday will sharpen their decline, and all but end hope of reaching South Africa 2010. Rabah Saadane has assembled his strongest squad in years, largely owing to the returns of Brahim Hemdani and Nader Belhadj, but the coach admits it will nevertheless be tough against the Lions of Teranga. "The quality of our play and our behaviour on the field must be at the highest level," said Saadane. Gambia are still eying a ticket to the next phase, and will be fancied to beat Liberia in Banjul on Saturday, a result which could move Paul Put's impressive squad joint-top of the section.
Group 7: After a slow entry into the qualifying rounds, Ivory Coast have steadily gathered steam. With 8 points in 4 games, Ivory Coast is 3 points better than Botswana, who reside in the second spot. Mozambique, with 4 points and Madagascar, with 3 points, still have a chance with two playing days to go.
Group 8 : The group top spot is being contested between Morocco and surprise package Rwanda, each with 9 points. Ethiopia with 6pts can still hope but Mauritania, with 0 points have been eliminated. Rwanda are turning heads, rivaling the North African giants in what was seen as a group Morocco would easily win when the draws were made.
Group 9 : The Stallions of Burkina Faso are surprising group leaders with 12 points, outsmarting 2004 African Champions Tunisia. The North Africans are 3 points shy of the Stallions, who may be determined to go all the way. Burundi (3 pts) and Seychelles (0 pt) are already eliminated.
Group 10 : After the disqualification of Chad by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the group has been thrown wide open. Leaders Mali (6 pts) as well as Congo and Sudan (3 pts) could still make it to the next round. Frédéric Kanouté’s side seem to have the better option in the group.
Group 11 : This is another group of three teams, which is maintaining its suspense. Swaziland (4 pts), Zambia (4pts) and Togo (3 pts, with a delayed match) are locked in a struggle. The team that better manages the situation will surely come out on top.
Group 12 : The Democratic Republic of Congo sparked some life into African football after their satisfactory performance at the 2006 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. The Simbas are in good form and are topping the group (as a result of a better goal advantage than Egypt). Both nations have 9 points. Malawi is still in the running with 6 points but Djibouti are out with 0 points and a –21 goal advantage after 4 playing games.
For full group standings, please click here.