The Battle of Omdurman commences today.
The Egyptians are this close to wresting the last qualifying spot from Africa at the expense of Algeria.
The backdrop has been a war of words between the two countries and their supporters, resulting in violence before the Cairo clash in which the bus carrying the Algerian players was stoned and left members of the team bleeding. Following the match, 32 fans including 20 Algerian fans were attacked in Cairo and Nasr City.
Algiers International Airport was ransacked by fans, returning disappointed after the Fennecs lost to the Pharaohs. In Marseilles, France - home to thousands of Algerians, shops were looted and cars overturned and burned.
The Sudanese government has deployed 15,000 security personnel and reduced the seating capacity of the stadium to a more manageable 35,000. 120 ambulances with 400 medical personnel are on the spot to manage medical emergencies. The airport has been busy with 48 planes ferrying Algerian fans and another 18 from Egypt while thousands more are making the trip by bus. Each is limited to 6000 fans.
A diplomatic detente has been established between the two countries. It is not time to point fingers. Let the coaches and players have their day.
"We play football for fun not to create a war," said Hassan Shehata, the Egyptian coach. "It will be a tough game. Both teams have an equal chance of winning and going to the World cup".
Algerian coach Rabah Saadane wants to start with a tabula rasa mentality.
"This is another game, we have forgotten what happened in Cairo, we will focus mainly on the psychological preparation of the group. The Fennecs are prepared for everything, the training on Monday ended with an exercise of shots on goal ..."
This game will go down in the annals of history as another example of how soccer is not just another sport but a way of life, in some cases, the only way. Aaah! Ugly, convoluted, mutated passion but passion nevertheless. We can only hope the fallout is limited.