Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco are well placed to complete in November the five-nation African line-up for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Nigeria and Egypt secured places at the weekend with home victories over Zambia and Congo Brazzaville respectively, leaving eight countries hunting the other three slots.
Tunisia or the Democratic Republic of Congo will qualify from Group A and Morocco or the Ivory Coast from Group C.
All four Group D teams — Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa — can win the mini-league.
AFP sport analyses the Africa zone qualifying competition ahead of the final fixtures between November 6 and 14:
Tunisia need one point from a home fixture against north African neighbours Libya to secure a fifth World Cup appearance and first since 2006.
It is a task well withing the capabilities of the “Carthage Eagles”, who are unbeaten in five qualifiers while Libya have lost four.
Should Tunisia suffer a shock loss and DR Congo defeat Guinea at home, first place will be decided by goal difference.
When Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and Zambia were placed together, no one could have imagined that the “group of death” would be settled before the final round.
Algeria were the most impressive African performers at the 2014 World Cup, taking eventual champions Germany to extra time, and gritty Cameroon won the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
But Nigeria made a flying start, taking six points from two matches while all their rivals stumbled, and were six points ahead of second-place Zambia when they sealed top spot.
Morocco take a one-point lead over the Ivory Coast to west Africa for a pressure-packed showdown that will determine which of the countries goes to Russia.
The pressure is on 2006/2010/2014 qualifiers Ivory Coast as they must win having been held 0-0 in Mali at the weekend and overtaken when Morocco thumped Gabon 3-0 in Casablanca.
Morocco last competed at a World Cup in 1998 and are banking on France-born former Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard to end a run of four failed qualifying campaigns.
Although all four teams can come first, 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal are sitting pretty with a two-point lead and a game in hand over two challengers.
The Senegalese need two points from away and home fixtures against bottom side South Africa to secure a second appearance at the global football showpiece.
South Africa beat Senegal 2-1 last November only for the result to be annulled and a replay ordered when FIFA found Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey guilty of match manipulation.
Egypt snatched a dramatic 2-1 home win over Congo Brazzaville at the weekend to book a World Cup place 27 years after last featuring in the competition.
Following many heart-breaking qualifying failures, the north Africans must have feared the worst when Congo levelled with two minutes of regular time left in Alexandria.
But Liverpool star Mohamed Salah calmly converted a penalty five minutes into stoppage time to win the game and give Egypt an unassailable four-point advantage over Uganda.