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Sports News
New generation set for qualifiers 3/22/2007
A budding new generation of African footballers return to the continent this weekend to set out their stall in the latest round of qualifiers for next year''s African Nations Cup finals in Ghana.

Players like Chelsea''s John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou, Anderlecht''s Mbark Boussoufa and Steven Pienaar of Borussia Dortmund will have the opportunity to start stepping into the shoes of the continent''s more experienced players.

A total of 23 matches in 12 groups are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday as the campaign to fill 15 of the 16 places at the final tournament in January reaches the halfway stage.

The weekend also sees the competitive debut for 13 new national team coaches, including former World Cup winners Carlos Alberto Parreira and Berti Vogts.

Brazilian Parreira takes his South African side, where Pienaar has emerged as the new midfield kingpin, to Chad for a tricky tie in Group 11.

The coach admitted he was concerned about a lack of information about their unheralded opponents, who host the match in the Saharan heat of Ndjamena on Saturday.

German Vogts has had less than a week to work with his new Nigerian charges as they prepare for a Group 3 tie against Uganda in Abeotuka on Saturday.

Pienaar has emerged as South Africa''s new midfield kingpin

They already have a handy lead in the group.

Mikel is expected to adopt the lead in the middle, taking over the role of former captain Austin Okocha, with Newcastle United''s Obafemi Martins and Middlesbrough striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni hoping for a regular supply line upfront.

Kalou is expected to partner his Chelsea team mate Didier Drogba in attack in his first competitive international as Ivory Coast take on Madagascar in Antananarivo in Group 1.

Kalou, who last year was still hoping to obtain Dutch nationality to play for the Netherlands at the 2006 World Cup finals, takes the place of the injured Arouna Kone in the Ivorian attack.

Dutch-born Boussoufa, who threw his international future in with Morocco last year, takes the leading role in the absence of the injured Marouane Chamakh for their game in Zimbabwe on Sunday.

Salomon Kalou has been in good form for Chelsea

Morocco can effectively wrap up the outcome of Group 12 if they win at Harare''s Rufaro stadium.

Striker Issam Jomaa''s recent goal-scoring form for Racing Lens in Ligue 1 has seen him recalled to the Tunisian squad for what is expected to be a routine assignment in the Seychelles on Saturday.

Lille''s Jean Makoun is the new midfield general of the Cameroon side, whose caretaker coach Jules Nyongha returns to take charge of their Group 5 game against Liberia in Yaounde on Saturday.

Former African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto''o returns for Cameroon after missing the

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