Bafana set to rewrite history

South Africa will become the first World Cup hosts in more than 70 years to participate in the qualifying competition.

South Africa will become the first World Cup hosts in more than 70 years to participate in the qualifying competition.

However, Bafana Bafana will play in the finals regardless of their performance in the qualifiers.

The African qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup are to be combined with the preliminaries for the 2010 African Nations Cup finals.

This will necessitate the participation of South Africa, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced yesterday.

While all the other African nations involved in the qualifiers will be vying for spots in both tournaments, South Africa will only be chasing a berth in the Nations Cup finals to held in Angola.

Similarly, Angola will be only trying to qualify for a World Cup place.

For the first time, Africa has a full quota of 53 entries for the 2010 preliminaries, which will be divided into three stages.

The bottom 10 African teams in the Fifa rankings have been drawn into five preliminary round ties, which are to be played over two legs in October and November.

Fifa says the draw has been conducted and is expected to be announced in the next days.

The five winners will join 43 other countries in the first group phase, where the teams will be divided into 12 groups of four teams each at the World Cup draw in Durban on 25 November.

They will play six rounds of matches through next year with the 12 group winners plus eight best runners-up progressing to the last league stage.

The 20 remaining teams are to be divided into a final stage of five groups of four, with the resultant group winners going onto the World Cup in South Africa and the top three in each group qualifying for the 2010 Nations Cup finals in Angola. Should South Africa finish top of their group, the runner-up would qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

CAF also used the 2006 World Cup qualifiers to determine the 16 Nations Cup finalists in Egypt the same year.

Africa are to have six teams at the World Cup finals for the first time. The only previous World Cup host forced to play a preliminary tie was Italy in 1934. - BBC

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