The countdown is on! It is 99 days to the D-day, and the six African teams qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2010 are busily getting ready, with some putting finishing touches to their strategies while others still frantically look for a coach or a midfielder… Wednesday has been set aside for friendly matches at all levels.
It is no doubt a clash that will lead to the biggest number of trials. Apart from Gianluigi Buffon’s absence, the wave of injuries that have struck the Azzurri will allow Marcello Lippi to conduct a broad review of players and hone his decision-making skills concerning the six or seven vacant positions. More importantly, the absence of Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta will allow him to see the skillful Marco Borriello and Giampaolo Pazzini in action. Paul le Guen, on the other hand, was disappointed by the performance of his team at the last African Cup of Nations CAF, and has opted for a quasi revamp of the Indomitable Lions with seven changes, including the return of Sebastian Bassong, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Joel Matip.
Buoyed by a whole nation, Algeria faces Serbia in Algiers. But this match is of a purely symbolic value as it will only serve as a stage to welcome the long awaited arrival of Mehdi Lacen. The Racing Santander midfielder, will kick his first ball in the Fennecs’ jersey. Deprived not only of its goalie, Gaouaoui, and captain, Mansuri, but also the wounded Meghni, Halliche, Saïfi and Bouazza, as well as Chaouchi and Lemmouchia, dismissed for disciplinary reasons, with Ziani and Yahia suffering from a severe lack of competition, Rabah Saadane will enjoy testing new elements. After twenty-four long years, the Khadra are not planning to miss the World Cup.
Côte d’Ivoire, South Korea
The Elephants of the Ivory Coast face South Korea in London … without a coach. Vahid Halilhodzic, fired a few days ago, has not been replaced. Guus Hiddink is being tipped to replace former Paris Saint Germain (PSG) coach but in the meantime, Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Eboue, Aruna Dindane and Salomon Kalou, all in the Premier League, will lead the Ivorians to Wembley stadium. For the Koreans and their coach Huh Jung-Moo, it is a roll call before their first World Cup stage where they will meet Greece, Nigeria and Argentina.
The host of the 19th edition of the World Cup is seeking to increase its chances. Having beaten Swaziland (6-2) and Zimbabwe (3-0), the Bafana Bafana hosts Namibia at the 70,000 seat Moses Madhiba stadium in Durban: The same stadium that will host Nigeria, Germany, Spain, Netherlands as well as a much awaited Brazil-Portugal clash. With the Namibians traveling as tourists, South Africans cannot afford to take this match lightly in front of a home crowd. Unfortunately, Carlos Alberto Parreira will have to make do without Mokoena and Dikgacoi, the 32 year-old star striker from Benni McCarthy.
Milovan Rajevac, Black Stars’ boss, still trusts his young under 20 world champions years. With Vorsah and Isaac Owusu-Abeyie absent, the young Jonathan Mensah and Yaw Antwi have been called as replacements. Just like the talented FC Porto winger, David Addy. But the Bosnians released their warheads; one of the most amazing duo strikers in Europe, Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic, who are currently terrorizing the Bundesliga. This match will, above all, serve as an internship program for Ghana, scheduled to take on Serbia, Australia and Germany in South Africa.
Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo
The new coach of Super Eagles will see his team in action for the first time. Lagerbäck, who just replaced Shaibu Amodu as head coach of Nigeria, will primarily be an observer on Wednesday in Abuja. The opportunity for locals, including Bassey Akpan, ThankGod Ike and Ejike Uzoenyi to win a place among the 23 players. Only four players playing in Europe were called, Obinna Nsofor, Onyekachi Apam, Elderson Echiejile and Sani Kaita. They are expected to bring some weight to Nigeria’s B group in a match against a tDRC eam composed of African Champions (CHAN and Champions League).