Now that the Confederations Cup is safely tucked away in Brazil, we can once again turn our attention to the real contest. The qualifying rounds for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are still being played out, but here is a brief run-down on who are shaping up as the likely field and what we can probably expect to see.
This is part one of a four part series. On this page, the main contenders from the African Confederation are discussed. To see predictions for the other confederations, please use the links in the following table of contents.
|Part One - Africa (this page)
Part Two - Asia and Oceania
Part Three - Europe
Part Four - The Americas
a. South Africa (qualified as host)
As the host nation, South Africa are the only team not required to qualify through the playoff system. The world has been stunned by their big improvement in the last two matches they played in the Confederations Cup against two of the biggest teams in world football (Brazil and Spain).
If they can hold onto that form, then South Africa's prospects are looking much brighter than they were just a few days ago. Based on their recent showings, they could possibly qualify for R16, but to progress beyond that will require consistency and perhaps a bit of luck with the draw.
The passionate support from the home crowd should help to boost their confidence, but it must be remembered that it could also place a lot of pressure on their shoulders. They did not let the pressure get to them in the match against Spain, so it's unlikely that they will get jittery in the early stages.
b. Gabon or Cameroon (to qualify)
Gabon currently are sitting in first place in the Group A table, and are in with an excellent chance of success in their bid to qualify for the first time. Ironically it is the team currently in last place that has the best chance of knocking Gabon off their perch.
Cameroon have yet to post a win in Round 4, but they had an excellent record in Round 3 and have a chance to bounce back. In order to overtake Gabon, however, they will need to win at least one of the two matches in September. They then need to hope for Gabon not to defeat Morocco and Togo for a second time in this round.
If Gabon win both matches against Cameroon, or get a draw in both matches, and then win any of the remaining ones, then Cameroon's hopes are almost sunk.
Cameroon should not be underestimated, because they still have the potential to win all four of their remaining matches, but even if they do manage to do this, Gabon only need to win two in order to ensure they remain on top.
c. Nigeria or Tunisia (to qualify)
Tunisia are currently at the top of the Group B table, but I am tipping that Nigeria will steal the qualification out from under the Tunisian's noses. Both teams have a proud tradition in the World Cup (Tunisia finished 9th in 1978 and have qualified for the past three World Cups, while Nigeria finished 9th in 1994 and have qualified three times).
My confidence in Nigeria is based on their better record in Round 3. The Nigerians should be able to beat Mozambique and Kenya, which means if they at least manage a draw against Tunisia and then Tunisia subsequently lose either of their remaining matches, Nigeria will come out on top.
If Nigeria can beat Tunisia then the deal is sealed, so that match on September 6th is of the utmost importance, and because it is a home game for Nigeria their prospects look a little brighter.
d. Algeria (to qualify)
This is one of the hardest groups to pick a winner from, but Algeria is the only team in Group C that has not lost a game in Round 4.
Egypt were very impressive in Round 3 and played a great match against Brazil in the Confederations Cup. Even their shock loss to the US was not the disgrace that many people labeled it as, since that team eventually were runners-up to Brazil in a closely contested final.
With only one point from three matches, however, Egypt has a huge amount of ground to make up, especially since their goal ratio is currently at 2:4.
Rwanda are also trailing with only one point, but are ahead of Egypt in the tables because their 0:1 goal ratio is a smaller deficit. Their prospects for qualification do not look at all bright.
Zambia are currently in the best position to push Algeria out, as they have four points and a goal ratio of 2:3. They will find it hard to get past Algeria, however, who have seven points, and a ratio of 5:1, with three matches left to play.
e. Ghana (to qualify)
Ghana are undefeated in Round 4 after three matches and look almost certain to qualify for the second successive time. In 2006 they made it through to the R16 thanks to excellent wins over the Czech Republic (2-0) and USA (2-1). They then had the misfortune to be drawn against Brazil immediately after they moved up to the next level. With better luck in the draw, they could again be a contender to make the Quarter Finals.
f. Côte d'Ivoire (to qualify)
Côte d'Ivoire (or "The Ivory Coast") are the leaders of Group E, and amazingly their strongest rivals at the moment are Burkina Faso. Côte d'Ivoire has nine points and a goal ratio of 10:3, while Burkina Faso is in second place with six points and a ratio of 5:4.
Côte d'Ivoire had a horror draw in in the first round of the 2006 World Cup, but performed well scoring goals against Argentina and the Netherlands, and beating Serbia and Montenegro 3-2 after trailing in the first half.
[End of part one. Please click here to continue.]