Moment of truth for Africa big boys
The cream of African teams gather in Johannesburg this week. And on Thursday, 30 teams go into two pots for a draw in a final round for the battle to determine which teams deserve to join South Africa at the 2013 African Nations Cup tournament final.
I imagine a couple of so-called big fish are anxious, others are biting their nails and some sweating buckets. And the reason is not hard to find. Here in South Africa, the country has been stunned by an unknown two year old team that has created history of some sort.
Formed in June 2010, Chippa United campaigned in the Third Division. After only a season, they won their way up through grueling play-offs to the Second Division. Once again, a season was enough to see them finish second and qualified for yet another set of playoffs where against all odds, they dumped old campaigners Santos from the Premiership.
In a space of two years, the team has made a jump of faith. I am not going to speculate about whether they will remain in the lucrative Premiership, rather, their remarkable achievements which clearly indicates that in this age and time, dreams do certainly come true.
But that is a story for another day. This Thursday, the who's who of African football converge to Johannesburg's glitzy Caesars Palace where a draw will be conducted pitting the last 30 teams remaining in the 2013 African Nations Cup qualifiers to determine which 15 will join Bafana Bafana in next year's finals.
Central African Republic has eliminated feared seven time champions Egypt from the qualifiers. It was a shocking result that proved that the playing fields have been leveled and if anybody doubted that there are no longer big and small teams in international football, this was a result that made you think again.
The majority of the teams in pot A, except perhaps for Ivory Coast, must be shaking in their boots. We have seen how most of them squeaked through in the previous round and some just scraped through and sighed with relief when their qualification games ended after they posted the narrowest of margins.
Early this year, Zambia shook African football to it's foundations when they eliminated West African powerhouses - Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast - to become continental champions. It was only the second time in the 55-year history of CAF that a Southern African team was winning the African showpiece.
Now you have Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi and Mozambique all inspired by Zambia's success and determined to nail their colors in the mast as well come 2013. Namibia were unlucky to bow out after putting a gallant fight in the previous round.
Ethiopia have emerged as something of a threat, and not because they outplayed South Africa in a World Cup qualifier that ended 1-1 in South Africa. but they have assembled a new breed of Ethiopians players that are determined to write their names in African folklore.
Botswana can no longer be dismissed as tame Zebras while Democratic Republic of Congo ran Cameroon rugged before going down 1-0 under controversial circumstances in Yaounde a few weeks ago during a World Cup qualifier and Cape Verde are brimming with confidence.
On paper, all the big guns have been separated to avoid them clashing against each other in this final round. But therein lies the danger because struggling Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia all face possible curved balls in this final round.
I am sure that Nigeria would not need motivation if they would be paired against Morocco, Algeria, Ghana or Guinea. But they could find themselves holding a tiger by the tail against CAR, Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda or Libya who are all in pot B.
The same fate awaits Cameroon, Mali, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia who must be spending sleepless nights ahead of Thursday's draw. Goliath has already been felled with a slingshot by David (Central African Republic) and the question is who will be the next victim consigned to watching from the sidelines?
It looks cut and dried for the big guns, but I am rubbing my hands in glee in anticipation of further shocks before the 15 team that will earn the right to come to South Africa are revealed......stand by for more shock results in the final round.