The battle for the remaining seven places in the play offs of the 2014 Africa World Cup qualifying campaign resumes this weekend in various stadiums across the continent.
Besides Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast who are assured of presence in the September 16 draw, the rest of the seven places are still up for grabs.
Groups F, I and J will offer the most interesting clashes as battlers go head to head. Giants Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon, Tunisia and Ghana need home draws but their opponents can leapfrog with away victories thus an exciting grand group stages finale.
Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga previews all the group games that are set to decide each group including Senegal versus Uganda in group J.
Let’s get started
GROUP A: CAR Vs Ethiopia – Stade Alphonse Massemba-Debat
Ethiopia will be looking to wrap up Group A when they take on Central African Republic in neutral Congo on Saturday at the Stade Alphonse Massemba-Debat.
The Wayla Antelopes thought they had secured a place in the final phase of qualification when they beat South Africa 2-1 in Addis Ababa back in June, but a subsequent FIFA intervention saw their away win over Botswana overturned due to the use of an ineligible player.
The CECAFA nation head to their ‘away’ match against CAR (played on neutral ground due to political instability in the country) needing to win to ensure that they top the group. If they fail to do so, they could be usurped by either South Africa or Botswana, who meet in a simultaneous match in Durban.
South Africa Vs Botswana – Sat 7 @ Moses Mabinda Stadium
Bafana Bafana’s hope of progressing into the next round of the African qualification tournament is dependent on two factors: Gordon Igesund’s must defeat the Zebras and hope that group leaders Ethiopia fail to defeat CAR in neutral Congo in a match played simultaneously.
When South Africa fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Ethiopia in June it appeared as if their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup were gone, but the CECAFA side’s use of an ineligible player in an earlier match has handed Bafana Bafana a lifeline.
To have any chance of taking advantage of this piece of fortune, Igesund’s side must defeat Botswana in Durban. However, the Zebras themselves still stand of chance of progressing if they claim a large win and CAR defeat Ethiopia.
GROUP B: Tunisia Vs Cape Verde – Sat 7 @ Tunis
Tunisia are favorites to seal top spot in Group B as they lead opponents Cape Verde Islands by two points going into Saturday’s decider in Tunis, where fans will be allowed to attend the game despite recent security concerns.
The Carthage Eagles just need to avoid defeat to reach the final round. Tunisia are another side who were celebrating making the play-offs only to be denied after Fifa overturned results of earlier qualifiers, a decision that allowed Cape Verde back into the race.
GROUP D: Ghana Vs Zambia – Fri 7 @ Baba Yara Stadium
The battle for a slot in the final round of the 2014 WCQ in group D ends Friday in Kumasi when leaders Ghana host Zambia.
Ghana leads the standings in the group with 12 points while Zambia sits second just a point behind the Black Stars.
Chipolopolo need to beat Ghanaians at the Baba Yara stadium where the hosts have not lost a game for the last eight years.
In the other game of the group, Sudan takes on Lesotho in a dead rubber given the two sides tied on two points with no chance of making it out of the group.
GROUP E: Congo Vs Niger & Burkina Faso Vs Gabon – Saturday 7
Congo have given away a substantial lead in Group E but still head Burkina Faso by one point.
Congo will qualify if they win away in Niger on Saturday while the Burkinabe are at home to Gabon at the same time.
Congo lead the group on ten points while Burkina Faso are behind by a point in second with third placed Gabon on seven points.
GROUP F: Nigeria Vs Malawi – Sat 7 @ Calabar
Nigeria are two points ahead of opponents Malawi in Group F going into Saturday’s match in Calabar, which has been overshadowed by a spat between their opposing coaches.
Malawi’s Tom Saintfiet complained to FIFA of racism after Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi called him “a white dude who should go back to Belgium”.
The issue, however, looks to have subsided as the pre-match posturing has tailed off.
Malawi can usurp the reigning Africa Nations Champions with a shock win in Calabar.
GROUP I: Cameroon Vs Libya – Sun 8 @ Yaoundé
Cameroon will look to Samuel Eto’o, who recently joined Premier League Chelsea from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala as they seek to hold off Libya in Yaoundé on Sunday.
The Indomitable Lions lead Libya by one point in the group after their 2-0 defeat by Togo in June was turned into a 3-0 win as their opponents had fielded a suspended player.
A win for Libya will eliminate the 1990 World Cup quarter finalist from the equation.
GROUP J: Senegal Vs Uganda – Sat 7 @ Marrakesh
Senegal, hoping to reach the World Cup for the first time since their giant-killing run in 2002, hosts Uganda in Marrakech, Morocco on Saturday as they are banned from their home stadium. They lead Uganda by one point in Group J.
Senegal leads the group on nine points one ahead of second placed Uganda.
At the end of it all, who will join Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast in the play offs?