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

Libya's national team
Libya, seen here celebrating last month's 1-0 'home' defeat of Mozambique in Cairo, can secure the most impressive of qualifications in Zambia this weekend

As the race to reach the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations nears the finish line, a dramatic weekend of qualifying action is in store.

21 countries are still in the hunt for 10 places still available at next January's finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

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 group with five teams).

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

GROUP A

Mali put themselves in control of Group A when leapfrogging Cape Verde at the top of the table last time around.

Now the Eagles will qualify for 2012 as long as they win in Liberia on Saturday.

A draw could be good enough if the group's other game - Cape Verde vs. Zimbabwe - also ends in a draw.

However, a Zimbabwe win coupled with a Mali draw will see the Warriors through to only their third finals in history.

But the Warriors must do without the top scorer in the ongoing African Champions League since Al Hilal's Edward Sadomba has a shoulder injury.

The only way in which Cape Verde can reach January's finals is if they beat Zimbabwe and Mali's Eagles lose in Monrovia.

GROUP B

One of the qualifiers of the weekend will take place in Abuja on Saturday when Nigeria entertain Group B leaders Guinea.

The hosts know that only a 1-0 win, or a two-goal margin should the Syli Nationale score, will take them to the finals.

Guinea's 1-0 victory at home last October remains the difference between the sides.

Disciplinarian Nigeria coach Samson Siasia has dropped outspoken goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, fined midfielder John Mikel Obi and must do without injured Heartland right-back Chibuzor Okonkwo.

In the day's other game, Ethiopia host Madagascar in Addis Adaba with little seemingly at stake - but this is not the case.

For whoever finishes bottom will have an impact on whether the second-placed team in the group can qualify for the finals as one of the two best runners-up.

With results against the bottom team not being taken into account, this could affect both Guinea (who have a better record against the Ethiopians) and Nigeria (who took more points off the Malagasy).

GROUP C

Another of the weekend's 'cup finals' comes in Chingola where Zambia host Libya on Saturday.

A draw will take the Chipolopolo through to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, while only an away win will automatically qualify Libya - who have conceded just once on their travels.

The Libyans are unbeaten since the revolution against Col Muammar Gaddafi and could still qualify as a best runner-up.

This would represent an incredible achievement for a national team that has been redesigned by the ongoing conflict.

Former playmaker Tarek El Taib has been sacked for his pro-Gaddafi views, while others are refusing to play until the long-time ruler finally falls.

Libya will be playing in their new strip, under their new flag and with their new national anthem.

Elsewhere, Mozambique play their final qualifier against Comoros - and their first tie since coach Mart Noiij was dismissed.

GROUP D

Group D is the most extraordinary of the 11 qualifying pools in that every team can still qualify.

However, Tanzania would need to pull off one of the greatest results in their history when they take on Morocco in Marrakech on Sunday if they are to make it through.

The more likely result is that an Atlas Lions side who have yet to concede at home, and who thumped Algeria 4-0 in their last home match, will depose of a side that has failed to win on its travels so far.

Moroccan fans
Moroccan fans are set to return to the Nations Cup for the first time since bombing out of Ghana 2008

Revitalised under Belgian coach Eric Gerets, Morocco have welcomed back temperamental midfielder Adel Taarabt - who stormed out of the training camp on the eve of Morocco's home clash with Algeria.

Algeria, who drew in Tanzania last month in their first competitive match under coach Vahid Halilhodzic, will have to beat a Central African Republic who have avoided defeat against North African opposition in Group D so far.

Last October, CAR famously won their first qualifying match since 1973 - as they beat the 2010 World Cup finalists 2-0 at home.

Now though, the Desert Foxes will be after revenge but must do without injured duo Mehdi Lacen and Rafik Djebbour.

Meanwhile, an away win would put CAR in contention for their first Nations Cup should the Morocco-Tanzania result go in their favour.

GROUP E

With Senegal having already qualified and Cameroon and DR Congo no longer in contention for a best runners-up spot - pride is all that is left this weekend.

Cameroon, who won back-to-back Nations Cup titles in 2000 and 2002, are missing out on a Nations Cup for the first time since 1994.

In the weekend's first qualifier, the Indomitable Lions won 3-2 in Kinshasa on Friday evening.

Unbeaten Senegal are rewarded for their fine campaign by finishing the group on Sunday in Mauritius, where the local football administration has been in recent turmoil.

GROUP F

In theory, Burkina Faso have already qualified from this group.

But their qualification is uncertain given the disputed eligibility of Cameroon-born Herve Zengue to play for the Stallions.

His appearances in two wins over Namibia could end in spectacular failure should the Confederation of African Football rule in the Brave Warriors' failure.

This would mean the qualifying points would go to Namibia, who would thus be in line to appear at January's finals.

While these off-field matters distract, the Burkinabe have a chance to show their prowess on the pitch as they travel to The Gambia on Saturday.

The Scorpions have endured a disappointing campaign, having failed to register a win since beating Namibia in their opening group game.

Group F was reduced to three teams after Mauritania's withdrawal.