JOHANNESBURG - Cameroon are putting their hopes in Samuel Eto'o to revive flagging World Cup qualification chances, thrusting the controversial striker into a new leadership role for vital matches over the next week.
The Inter Milan forward, whose talented contribution to his country's cause in the past has been tempered by an unpredictable temperament, is being cast by new coach Paul LeGuen as the potential saviour of Cameroon's cause.
They must beat neighbours Gabon twice in five days to revive their chances as they meet the Group A leaders first in Libreville on Saturday and then at home in Yaoundé on Wednesday.
The contest is among several intriguing tussles through the week as the African preliminaries head to an exciting climax.
Ghana, topping group D, could become the first continental side to qualify while the Ivory Coast, in Group E, has the chance of moving to within one point of a place at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
But the three other groups are all still far from decided.
Cameroon have taken a solitary point from their opening two matches, results which cost veteran German coach Otto Pfister his job in May.
LeGuen has since taken over and in his first game last month, victory in a friendly in Austria, dropped long-standing captain Rigobert Song to install Eto'o as the new leader.
"It is my responsibility as coach to make these choices. I do things that are in the interest of the team to try and attempt to ensure the best possible result," he said in an interview published on the Cameroonian Football Federation website www.fecafootonline.com.
LeGuen, who left his post at Paris St Germain at the end of last season, told the French daily L'Equipe he believed Cameroon could yet revive their chances.
"Although it is difficult, it is not impossible," he said.
GHANA HAVE CLEAN SLATE
Ghana have won all three of their group matches in the final round competition and with home advantage in Accra against bottom-placed Sudan on Sunday are expected to keep up their 100 percent record.
Victory would move Ghana up to 12 points but they will only secure a successive World Cup finals berth if second placed Mali and Benin, who are third, draw their match in Cotonou on Sunday.
Ivory Coast are also on the brink of qualification, and if they secure a home win over second-placed Burkina Faso in Abidjan on Saturday, will be within one point of returning to the finals.
Algeria's hopes of a first World Cup appearance in more than two decades will be boosted if they beat Zambia at home in Group C. In the same group, reigning African champions Egypt must win away at Rwanda on Saturday to hold on to a faint chance.
In Group B, Tunisia defend a two-point lead over Nigeria when they meet in Abuja on Sunday. A draw would keep the north Africans on track to appear at a fourth successive World Cup but a Nigeria win would shift the balance in the group.
Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor leads Togo on Sunday in their bid to stay in contention in Group A when they host Morocco in Lome.
Togo return to the Kegue Stadium after a four-match ban forced them to host their last four home matches in neighbouring Ghana.comments