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African giant-killers face tough tasks – posted by

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African giant-killers face tough tasks


Giant-killers Tanzania and Sudan enjoy home advantage this weekend when they resume their 2012 London Olympic Games qualifying campaigns.

Tanzania edged 2000 gold medalists Cameroon on penalties in the second round and now confront Nigeria, arguably the strongest current national U-23 team on the continent.

Pre-qualifiers Sudan mocked the form book by sending 1992 bronze medalists Ghana packing and next up are neighbours Egypt with a last-eight place at stake.

These are the pick of the eight third round, first leg fixtures from which the overall winners will advance to a mini-league tournament provisionally set for December and hosted by a qualifier.

The top three finishers secure places at the first Olympics hosted by London since 1948 and the fourth-placed team go into a play-off with an Asian country in the English capital next April.

Proud Olympic record
African nations have a proud football record during the past five Olympic Games, with Nigeria collecting gold and silver medals, Cameroon gold and Ghana bronze.

While Tanzania were stunning Cameroon two months ago, Nigeria flexed their muscles by hammering nine goals past Equatorial Guinea in a home-and-away tie, with Ekigho Ehiosun grabbing four to become leading scorer in the qualifiers.

Former Egypt star Hany Ramzy has warned his squad to be wary of Sudan in Omdurman, where stifling, sauna-like conditions put visiting teams at a major disadvantage.

“Many former African football minnows have made considerable progress and there is less of a divide in terms of quality. That is a reason why the match against Sudan will be far from easy,” he warned.

Egypt hold the African record for Olympic football appearances with ten, dating back to the 1920 Games in Belgian city Antwerp, while Sudan made the finals just once – in Munich 39 years ago.

Other fixtures
South Africa drew 0-0 and won 1-0 in Mauritius last week as they prepared to face Benin in Cotonou and the return of leading scorer Bongani ‘Drogba’ Ndulula from champions Orlando Pirates should boost their fire power.

There is a strong north African presence and all have home advantage, with Algeria playing Zambia, Morocco meeting Congo DR and Tunisia facing Senegal.

Côte d’Ivoire, who reached the 2008 Beijing quarter-finals before bowing to eventual silver medalists Nigeria, visit Congo and Gabon host Mali in the other fixtures.

Although qualifiers on all continents are restricted to U-23 players, the 15 qualifiers plus hosts Great Britain can field three over-age footballers during the tournament.

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