Four of the six confederations will have started their campaigns before the draw for the preliminary competition in Durban on 25 November. Only UEFA and CONCACAF are waiting until next year to begin their qualifiers.
Given the high costs of travel between its remote island members, Oceania jumped at the chance to use the South Pacific Games as the first stage in its qualifying competition. And so it was to Samoa that ten nations trooped in late August and early September to play in the football tournament at the Games, including one non-FIFA member in the shape of Tuvalu, an island nation slowly sinking and with a population of just 7,000.
A late switch in the two-week programme, necessitated by TV coverage demands, meant that the opening game of the 2010 qualifiers changed from the meeting between American Samoa and the Solomon Islands to the derby between New Caledonia and Tahiti, two countries still considered French territory.
There were just three cameras to cover the game as Tahiti got the ball rolling in sweltering heat at the home of the Samoa Football Soccer Federation, built as part of the FIFA Goal programme.
Tahiti striker Axel Williams, without much fanfare, had the first touch of the ball after the whistle had sounded from New Zealand referee Matthew Hector, who took just seven minutes to issue the first yellow card. Two minutes later came the first goal of the qualifying campaign. Imposing Tahiti defender Stephane Gelima was caught out by the pace of New Caledonia winger Iamel Babeu and Hector had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Up stepped captain Pierre Wajoka to claim a special place in football history by scoring the first goal, a feat he seemed rather non plussed about afterwards.
“These individual things are not as important as victory for the team,” said Wajoka after his side had held onto their slender lead for the rest of the game, despite being down to ten men from as early as the 40 minute when midfielder Jose Hmae was sent off for hitting an opponent in the face.