The road to 2012 Africa Cup of Nations: Groups A-F

Fans of Senegal's national team
Senegalese, pictured here celebrating their win over Cameroon in March, will see the Teranga Lions qualify should they beat DR Congo in Dakar on Saturday

With just two rounds of qualifying left, the race to reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations is entering its critical phase.

Four of the qualifiers are already known, with first-time finalists Botswana and Ivory Coast joining hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in the finals.

Elsewhere, some 25 nations still harbour hopes of reaching African football's showpiece event next January.

All 11 group winners automatically qualify for the Nations Cup, as will the two best runners-up - and the team that finishes second in Group K, the only team with five points.

The BBC's Piers Edwards previews the action in Groups A-F (with Groups G-K previewed here).

GROUP A

Cape Verde's hopes of a maiden Africa Cup of Nations finals rest on avoiding defeat in Saturday night's clash in Mali.

The islanders lead Group A by just a point from their rivals, who need a home win in Bamako to take control of the group.

Mali coach Alain Giresse has recalled Barcelona's Seydou Keita for the crunch tie, ending the player's international exile, although Mahamadou Diarra and Garra Dembele are notable absentees.

Zimbabwe host Liberia in Harare on Sunday, knowing that a win is a must if they are to have any hope of finishing top.

Germany-based Knowledge Musona is an injury doubt for the hosts, while Lone Star defender Jimmy Dixon is set to sit out the match.

The visitors have yet to win away in Group A so far but should they do so on Sunday, they would be in line for an improbable qualification.

GROUP B

Once again, a Nigerian qualifying campaign is proving far from easy as the Super Eagles trail group leaders Guinea by three points.

And the Syli Nationale could well extend their lead when they host a limited Ethiopian side in Conakry.

Meanwhile, Samson Siasia's side travels to Madagascar where victory is seemingly imperative if the Nigerians - with Osaze Odemwingie headlining a number of absentees - are to top the group.

Victory in Antananarivo on Sunday would enable the Super Eagles to leapfrog the Guineans should they win when the pair meet in Group B's decisive match in October.

The Malagasy, who will be fielding youngsters having sacked their first team following a disappointing Indian Ocean Islands Games display, have yet to win a game in the group but did hold Guinea to a 1-1 draw in their last home match.

GROUP C

Despite the political turmoils back home, Libya's footballers have maintained their unbeaten run since the anti-Gaddafi uprising began.

However, their two matches since February have both come against the weakest team in the group and one of the weakest in Africa - Comoros.

One point behind group leaders Zambia, the Libyans must play their 'home' match against Mozambique - for whom defender Paito is suspended - in the Egyptian capital.

But it is unclear what condition the players will be in or if Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta will be in charge for Saturday's match.

Chipolopolo's challenge is far clearer, knowing that if Libya lose and they can beat Comoros on Sunday they would qualify for their fourth straight finals.

GROUP D

If Central African Republic are going to reach their first Nations Cup finals, then victory at home to joint Group C leaders Morocco - with both teams tied on 7 points - on Sunday would seem a must.

CAR have already stunned one North African nation in Bangui, beating Algeria 2-0 last October, their first qualifying win since 1973.

But they repeated the feat in their last home match against Tanzania and must now use the home crowd to their advantage one more time, especially with a tricky trip to Algeria for their final game next month.

But Morocco are much-improved under coach Eric Gerets and have won their last two matches in impressive fashion - thumping Algeria 4-0 in a qualifier in June, before winning a friendly 2-0 in Senegal in August.

The Atlas Lions will be without Marouane Chamakh since the Arsenal striker is suspended for the clash.

Elsewhere, victory in Saturday's Dar-es-Salaam clash between Tanzania and 2010 World Cup qualifiers Algeria will reignite both side's qualification hopes.

Tunisia clash with Central African Republic in May 2011
Central African Republic (in blue) need to beat Morocco on Sunday to have a realistic chance of making their first Africa Cup of Nations finals

GROUP E

Senegal's chances of reaching the 2012 Nations Cup were further boosted this week when Robert Nouzaret, the coach of opponents DR Congo, resigned in a row over team selection.

The 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists lead Group E by three points and know that victory at home to the Leopards on Saturday will take them to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Revived under coach Amara Traore, his namesake - full back Armand - is in line to make his competitive debut for the Teranga Lions if Fifa clearance comes through in time.

Meanwhile, Tresor Mputu Mabi is set to make his international return following his one-year Fifa ban for assaulting a referee - while former coach Claude LeRoy is flying in at short notice to take charge.

Elsewhere, even a comprehensive victory for Cameroon against Mauritius on Saturday may do little to help the Indomitable Lions.

Should Senegal beat DR Congo, the four-time African champions will be chasing qualification as one of the two best runners-up.

And with results against a group's bottom side not being taken into account, Samuel Eto'o and co. are in danger of missing the Nations Cup for the first time since 1994.

GROUP F

Group F is a complicated affair - and not just because it is the only one with three sides following Mauritania's withdrawal early in the campaign.

No, the real problem comes from the eligibility of Cameroon-born Herve Zengue to play for Burkina Faso.

Namibia have protested to the Confederation of African Football that the midfielder is ineligible to play for the Stallions, even though he has married a local Burkinabe.

Should the Namibians win their appeal, they would automatically be awarded the qualifying points from their matches against the group leaders (the only two games Zengue has contested).

A new table would see Namibia with six points, while Burkina Faso's tally would drop down to three.

Having failed to win a match all campaign, Namibia's theoretical chances of contesting January's finals would be boosted by beating their Gambian visitors on Saturday.

But the visitors arrive in good form, having beaten DR Congo 3-0 in an August friendly, while the hosts' last home match ended in comprehensive defeat to the Burkinabe.

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