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African World Cup Qualifying: What's still at play?

Africa's engrossing World Cup qualifying campaign reaches its conclusion this weekend as the continent's finest sides still standing battle for the three spots at next summer's showpiece in Russia.

Nigeria and Egypt have already secured their tickets to the tournament, but who will be joining them after the final round of qualifiers?

Group A

Group leaders Tunisia took four points from their double-header against the Democratic Republic of Congo and therefore have a three-point advantage heading into the final weekend.

The hard work is behind them, but the Eagles of Carthage must still hold their nerve to avoid a slip up at home to Libya on Saturday.

Egypt demonstrated how tricky it can be to see off one of the continent's 'lesser' sides at home in a decisive qualifier, but Tunisia will surely be boosted by the knowledge that they'll secure top spot if they avoid defeat.

Libya have some talented options going forward, but in conceding four against the DRC and three against Guinea, they've demonstrated how easily they can be torn apart.

For the Leopards - who host Guinea in Kinshasa - only a win will be enough to remain in the running, and even then, they'd only pip Tunisia if the North Africans lose.

Florent Ibenge will surely be hoping that Libya can take an early lead in Rades and open the door for his side to make a shock comeback.

Group B

The outcome in Group B has already been decided, with Nigeria making light work of the 'Group of Death' to snare top spot by defeating Zambia last month.

Nonetheless, the group's two other giants - Algeria and Cameroon - will be keen to go out on a high following disappointing qualifying campaigns, and the former, in particular, will be desperate to make a statement when they host the Super Eagles in Constantine.

There's more than just bragging rights at stake here, with NFF chief Amaju Pinnick urging his side to end the qualifying campaign in style and make a statement before the trip to Russia.

Nigeria are dealing with several injury concerns before the final fixture, and the Fennecs may fancy their chances of pulling off a morale-boosting victory in front of their own fans.

Group C

Gabon and Mali, who meet in Franceville, are already out of the running to reach Russia after taking just five and three points respectively from their campaigns.

The real intrigue, of course, is in Abidjan, where the Ivory Coast and Morocco meet for the third time since November.

The Atlas Lions held the Elephants in Marrakesh in the first qualifier between the two, before beating them 1-0 at the Africa Cup of Nations, and know that anything other than a defeat will see them in Russia.

Marc Wilmots will surely be counting on home support to help his side over the line and avoid his troubled tenure plugging even lowlier depths.

However, while the Ivorians were irresistible as they swatted away Gabon 3-0 in Libreville, they were abject in the home defeat by the Panthers and lacked ideas away in Mali, as pole position in the group slipped away from them.

Wilmots will be boosted by the returns of Wilfried Zaha and Max Gradel, while Jonathan Kodjia and Gervinho have also made the cut. However, the absences of Eric Bailly, Wilfried Bony and Jean Seri deny him three key, experienced performers.

Group D

There's a twist in the tail in Group D, where we still have one additional match to play following the annulment of South Africa's 2-1 victory over Senegal in November due to corrupt refereeing.

The two continental heavyweights are therefore set to replay that fixture as the first part of a fascinating double header, with two match-ups in a four-day period.

For Bafana Bafana, the maths are simple, as only two victories over the Lions of Teranga will be enough to see them to Russia.

Senegal need to take two points from their two matches to end the hopes of Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, both of whom could reach Russia if the West Africans lose one and draw another, and if either of them secure a big victory in their final fixture in Ouagadougou.

The sensible money has to be on Senegal, particularly considering South Africa are without their talismanic skipper Itumeleng Khune after he fractured his eye socket.

Group E

Egypt's last-gasp triumph over Congo-Brazzaville at home during the last international break secured their first World Cup appearance since 1990, and they can afford to experience and assess some of their broader options in their final qualifier against Ghana.

Mohamed Salah has even been given the weekend off, which should come as a major boost for the Black Stars as they seek to end their underwhelming qualifying campaign on a high note.

Kwesi Appiah's side could leapfrog above Uganda into second with a win, but the greater value, surely, would be in giving the coach some much-needed credence ahead of the continuation of the Africa Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

Uganda travel to Brazzaville in the group's other game, with the hosts taking just one point from their opening five fixtures.

Ed Dove is the Soccer Editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @EddyDove.

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