The chance to take part in Africa's first World Cup, and the Nations Cup in Angola next year, is concentrating the minds of coaches and players across the continent.
As the second round of matches in the final qualifying groups approach, BBC Sport's Matthew Kenyon looks ahead to the games - which feature some stiff tests for teams already lagging behind in the race for South Africa 2010.
Some big names need to produce impressive performances or they will find themselves falling dangerously behind.
Cameroon will be looking to Samuel Eto'o to get a vital win for them
Cameroon's campaign to get to the World and Nations Cup in 2010 started badly and has got worse.
The "Indomitable Lions" proved themselves anything but indomitable when they lost their opening game in Group A to Togo.
Since then they have lost their coach Otto Pfister, who resigned after several assistants were appointed without him knowing.
They now host Morocco in Yaounde, with both teams desperate to register their first points of this stage.
The Atlas Lions were beaten by Gabon in their first game.
Cameroon's stand-in coach Thomas Nkono says it will be a difficult contest.
"We have to show our character in this match," he said.
"The pressure for us is constant [but] we are used to it."
In contrast, the two other teams in the group, Gabon and Togo, meet in Libreville both hoping to secure maximum points after two games.
Gabon have won all their home games in qualifying so far and must be favourites.
Shaibu Amodu was boosted by Nigeria's win over France
Nigeria's Super Eagles came under heavy criticism following their opening draw with Mozambique but their recent friendly win over France will have restored morale.
Now they are at home against Kenya, whose own build-up has been disrupted by a pay dispute between their coach Antoine Hey and Football Kenya Ltd., which runs the game in the country.
The team left for Nigeria without him but he is now on his way.
Hey is planning to exploit the perceived differences within the Nigeria camp.
"I think they [Nigeria] are very much under pressure at home after the result in Mozambique," Hey said.
"We will try and get a result that no-one is expecting," he told the BBC.
Tunisia are the only team in Group B with three points so far - they host the Mambas of Mozambique.
BBC African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Aboutrika is Egypt's key man
All four teams have just one point and because only the winners of each group go through to the World Cup in South Africa, securing a victory in these second matches is very important.
Double African champions Egypt drew at home against Zambia in their first match and must now travel to Algeria.
The Pharaohs prevented several players from turning out for Al Ahly in their Confederation Cup game in Angola last week, including BBC African Footballer of the Year Mohamed Aboutrika, so they should be fresh.
Zambia's success in getting a point in Cairo has led to huge interest in their home clash with Rwanda in Chililabombwe in the country's Copper belt.
Captain Christopher Katongo told the BBC that his side will cope with the pressure.
"As a team you never go wrong...and I have seen that we are working as a team, we just need to come out on Saturday and if everyone can give 90 percent it will be much better for Zambia."
Ghana will miss Sulley Muntari's influence against Mali
Ghana were at the World Cup in Germany and the Black Stars gained a taste for the biggest stage.
They started this round of qualifying with a win but will be missing a series of high-profile players in their squad for the trip to Mali.
Sulley Muntari, Stephen Appiah, Derek Boateng, Asamoah Gyan and Laryea Kingston are all out of action.
Mali's coach Stephen Keshi will have high hopes of securing a valuable win as he goes into the game with a fully fit squad.
In the other match in this group, Benin host Sudan, who must turn themselves around after a heavy 4-0 defeat in a friendly international against Tunisia.
Benin are hopeful of continuing the good form they showed in the previous round, after their narrow defeat by Ghana.
Squirrels' midfielder Romauld Boco says the team are in good spirits.
"We have played a lot better in the last 5 years, [because] we are the same group of players and we know each other very well," he told the BBC.
"The game against Sudan is the most important game for us."
Ivory Coast are being told to work together by their coach
Group E saw 11 goals scored in the first round of games as Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso powered to impressive wins.
But the Ivorians' 5-0 win over Malawi was marred by the deaths of 19 fans in the build-up to the game.
The two front-runners avoid each other again this time round, as they swap opponents.
Ivory Coast make the short trip to Conakry to take on Guinea, and coach Vahid Halilhodzic said he expects another impressive display.
"We've prepared a few different strategies to resolve certain problems that may arise," he told the BBC.
"The Ivorian team has lots of experience and a lot of great individuals - now is the moment to show their true quality."
The other match sees Burkina Faso travel to Blantyre to play Malawi and Fifa inspectors will be in place to ensure that restrictions imposed to ensure stadium safety are observed.
There will be coverage of all the action on this website and on Fast Track on the BBC World Service at 1820 GMT on Sunday.
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