Africa preview

Egypt feel the heat for Zambia test

October 10, 2009

Mohamed Aboutrika is fearing the worst for Egypt ahead of the latest round of World Cup qualifying matches, which could spell the end of the road to South Africa for the Pharaohs and several of Africa's other top teams.

The continental champions travel south to Chililabombwe, where they will face a must-win tie against Zambia, while the likes of Nigeria, Morocco and Togo could all bow out this week.

At the other end of the scale, Algeria, Tunisia, Cameroon and Ivory Coast could all join already-qualified Ghana if results go their way in the penultimate round of matches.

The Black Stars became the first African side to book their place at the 2010 finals - the first to be held on the continent - when they beat Sudan last time around, and the Egyptians will be desperate to emulate them or at least keep their hopes alive against the Zambians, in what is also the first game of the weekend.

Aboutrika, an injury doubt for the game due to a slight hamstring problem, knows the Pharaohs face a tough task to qualify.

"We have an almost impossible mission, but it's a situation we're familiar with," he said. "We know that winning away against an attack-minded Zambia will be far from easy, but as ever we'll do our best to triumph and keep our qualification hopes alive."

Hassan Shehata's side are currently second in Group C with seven points from four games, three points behind leaders Algeria, who they host in their final match on November 14.

However, in order to keep that game from being a dead rubber, the six-time African champions must at least match the Algerians' result at home to Rwanda on Sunday.

Aboutrika added on Fifa.com: "This is a very good Zambia side, even if they've not had the best of luck in the group, especially in their two matches against Algeria. I don't want to say anything more about our chances. It's clear Algeria are the favourites now, but as long as there's hope, we'll try our best."

In Group B, Tunisia could seal their place at next year's finals if they beat bottom-placed Kenya in Rades and Nigeria fail to gain maximum points against Mozambique in Abuja.

Reports from the west African country indicate that confidence has dropped since the Super Eagles surrendered a last minute goal in their previous game to draw 2-2 with the Carthage Eagles - a result that has left Shaibu Amodu's men with only an outside chance of qualifying.

However, striker Kanu has called on his team-mates not to give in. He said: "We have a job to do and we are here to do it. We don't want to be talking too much. Our determination is to get the points and hope for the best in the remaining games of the World Cup qualifiers, so we can qualify for the World Cup finals."

Elsewhere, there is another potentially thrilling tie set to take place in Yaounde, where Cameroon host Togo.

The Indomitable Lions have had a dramatic reversal of fortune in Group A, turning around a poor start that included one point from their opening two games that had left them bottom of the pool.

Back-to-back wins over Gabon, however, have put them on seven points and a win over the Togolese (five), coupled with either a draw or defeat for Azingo Nationale (six) against Morocco in Libreville, would hand Paul Le Guen's side a place at the World Cup.

Groups D and E are far more straightforward - the former of which was decided in the last round with Ghana having already qualified. Nonetheless, Milovan Rajevac will be aiming to continue their 100 per cent winning record when they face Benin (four) in Cotonou.

Mali (five) and Sudan (one) clash in the other game with the race still on for second and third - the reward of which is a place at January's African Nations Cup finals in Angola.

Finally, the Ivory Coast, the only other team to have maximum points from their four games, need just a point against Malawi (three) in Blantyre to secure their seat at the World Cup. The Elephants may even go through with a defeat if Burkina Faso (six) fail to overcome Guinea (three) in Accra.