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World Cup Debate: Which African Sides Will Join Ghana In South Africa Next Year?

Some surprises are in store for African football as World Cup qualification approaches a climax, and the giants of Egypt and Nigeria look set to miss the 2010 event.

Five group winners qualify for the 2010 World Cup, while the top three finishers in each mini-league go the African Nations Cup in Angola five months earlier.

Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria and Ivory Coast are looking good to join Ghana and hosts South Africa to complete the African line-up at the global event.

The Black Stars became the first African team to secure a place through qualifying at the first World Cup to be staged on the 'Dark Continent' by topping Group D with two games to spare.

Ghana became the seventh nation to join hosts South Africa in next year's 32-nation tournament. A 100 per cent record for the Ghanaians shows the depth and ability of the squad, and the world should take notice, as this side is one of the best Africa have ever produced on an international level, and they will be gunning for the trophy next year on African soil.

Cameroon, Algeria and Ivory Coast also took maximum points during the fourth round of games in the previous World Cup qualifying round, while Tunisia hit back twice to force a 2-2 draw with Nigeria.

The impact of recently hired French coach Paul Le Guen on Cameroon has been immediate, and after the Indomitable Lions defeated Gabon for the second time in five days, the side became Group A leaders. This has been quite a turnaround for a team who were defeated in Togo, lost German coach Otto Pfister and managed only a goalless home draw with Morocco under caretaker Thomas N'knono before Le Guen came to the rescue of one of Africa’s traditional heavyweights.

This was seen as the 'Group of Death' for many experts, and it has turned out to be one of the most exciting out of the five, with all four of the teams still in with a chance to progress to the 2010 event, though Morocco seem destined to sit this World Cup out.

The Lions host Togo this weekend before visiting Morocco next month as they seek an African record sixth World Cup appearance. Le Guen, winner of three consecutive French titles with Lyon, gambled by dropping long-serving defender Rigobert Song and passing the captaincy to star striker Samuel Eto'o. The results speak for themselves, with a 2-0 friendly win in Austria followed by a double win against Gabon, putting them in command of their group and heading towards qualification.

Tunisia can clinch the Group B honours if they beat Kenya at home and Mozambique away in their remaining games - an achievement that will be hard for Nigerians to accept after their shock failure to reach the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Nigeria have the same opponents - a visit from Mozambique followed by a journey to Kenya - but they are reliant on the Tunisians slipping up.

Nigerians have now turned into mathematicians, who have been working overtime to calculate the countless permutations that could see the Super Eagles qualify for the World Cup.

The Black Mambas of Mozambique beat Kenya in the last round of matches to keep alive their Nations Cup hopes, meaning they still have something to play for. Most Nigerians are now placing their hopes on a resolute team like Mozambique to at least hold Tunisia to a draw in Maputo come November 14. The Super Eagles travel to Nairobi to face the Harambee Stars of Kenya on the same day.

But first, Nigeria must beat the Mozambicans in Abuja on Sunday for such a permutation to work in the Super Eagles’ favour. Nigeria not only have to win, but win well to improve their goal difference.

Tunisia enjoy a better goal difference as it now stands - they have scored six time and let in three, while Nigeria have netted on five occasions and conceded twice. The teams have the same goal difference, but Tunisia have struck more regularly than Nigeria and on-head-to-head they are also superior, having scored two goals away from home. It will without question be an interesting last few games in this group.

Ivory Coast have been cruising towards securing their second appearance in the World Cup, and they need one point from encounters with Malawi away and Guinea at home to top Group E.

The Ivorian Elephants boast a 100 per cent record after four rounds, and having routed Malawi 5-0 in Abidjan last March, there is no reason to doubt that they can take at least one point from Blantyre this weekend. Ivory Coast are another of the African sides who will be looking at the 2010 World Cup as a fine opportunity to show the world just what they are capable of.

It looks like African champions Egypt will have to defeat Zambia away and Group C leaders Algeria at home to have any hope of reaching South Africa, as they trail their fierce North African rivals by three points. This race may end up depending on the final direct match-up between the two sides in Cairo in November, as it seems likely that Algeria will defeat visiting Rwanda this weekend, while Egypt will probably achieve a similar result in Zambia.

Should the Desert Foxes beat bottom team Rwanda in their next match and Egypt fail to win in Zambia, however, Algeria will qualify for the 2010 World Cup, meaning their trip to Cairo on the final day of the qualifiers will just be a mere formality. Zambia are expected to clinch the third place and a ticket to the Nations Cup at the expense of a disappointing Amavubi of Rwanda.

The outcome of the games this weekend will go a long way to determining the final five African sides who will join South Africa at next year’s World Cup, so get ready for a whirlwind weekend of football from Africa, with your best coverage here on Goal.com.

Peter Pedroncelli & Samm Audu, Goal.com

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