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Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Mozambique dream of South Africa

By Piers Edwards
BBC Sport, Maputo

Mozambique's Dutch coach Mart Nooij
Mart Nooij believes Mozambique can qualify for the 2010 World Cup

As the final phase of Africa's decisive 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers kick off Mozambique are dreaming big.

The Mambas host Group B favourites Nigeria in Maputo on Sunday, while Kenya take on Tunisia in the weekend's other tie.

Despite never having reached the World Cup, Mozambique's squad are aiming to become the only one of South Africa's immediate neighbours to contest next year's showpiece finals.

"This is a group which can produce surprises," Dutch coach Mart Nooij told BBC Sport.

"You know, I'm not scared and nor are the guys. We are growing in confidence as a team, because we know we can finish games, and we will give Nigeria a hard time."

Much of this confidence comes from holding both Senegal and Ivory Coast to competitive draws at the cavernous Machava Stadium in the last two years.

And such is the excitement in Mozambique that the 35,000 tickets available for Sunday's clash sold out in just four hours on Thursday morning.

In an unprecedented move, Thursday morning was also when the squad was breakfasting with President Armando Guebuza at his palace.

The Machava Stadium in Maputo
The Machava Stadium in Maputo will be full for the visit of Nigeria

A record bonus sum of US$2,000 is on offer to each player to beat Nigeria - yet one of the country's biggest stars, Elias 'Domingues' Pelembe, says this is not the greatest carrot.

"We're targeting both the World Cup and Nations Cup - and we need to beat Nigeria to go there," the South Africa-based winger told BBC Sport.

"We can beat Nigeria because in football, anyone can beat anyone. We just need to work hard, trust ourselves and keep playing the same football.

"But if we don't make the World Cup, we need to go to the Nations Cup.

"Going to an African cup is my dream because for a long time I've been thinking that I am going to play there one day."

Nooij has taken to quoting one of the world's most famous orators in recent weeks.

"Each coach, player, official from the ministry or federation, each woman, man or child in the street has the right to dream," he rallied.

"It was Martin Luther King who told us 'I have a dream'.

"We also have a dream but we are not mixing dreams up with reality.

"The World Cup is far away. We have to play six matches, which we consider as six finals, and at the end we'll see where Mozambique end up."

If the southern Africans need further inspiration, they can take heart from the surprise qualification of Portuguese-speaking brothers Angola for the 2006 World Cup at Nigeria's expense.

Yet most Mozambique fans will just be happy to reach Angola 2010, with the Mambas having failed to contest a Nations Cup finals since 1998.

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see also
Road to Angola and SA continues
27 Mar 09 |  African
Okocha issues Nigeria warning
25 Mar 09 |  African
Yobo to miss Mozambique clash
20 Mar 09 |  African
Theft will not stop Nigeria game
20 Mar 09 |  African

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