Hosts South Africa have been handed a tricky draw in the group stages of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations to be played from January 19 to February 10, while Ghana's Black Stars face a tough battle and Nigeria have been drawn in the same group as reigning champions Zambia.
Bafana Bafana will open their campaign - and the finals of the competition - at Soccer City in Johannesburg against newcomers Cape Verde on January 19, before moving to the coastal city of Durban to play Angola on January 23. Their final pool match is against Morocco in Durban on January 27.
Cape Verde may be making their debut at the continental showpiece, but they are a vastly improved side over the past two years, as evidenced by their ousting of Cameroon in the qualifiers. The tiny island nation of just 500,000 draws its talent mostly from the Portuguese leagues, calling on players from that country to seek out their Cape Verdean roots.
Morocco are the other powerhouse in the pool and they will be keen to make up for a disappointing showing in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon earlier this year, when they went into the competition as many people's favourites but were booted out in the first round.
Group B is headed by Ghana, who are still searching for a first Nations Cup title in more than three decades, an agonising wait for Black Stars fans.
The draw has not been kind to them though. They must play an excellent Mali side who finished third in the 2012 event, and a resurgent DR Congo who have built a formidable national side based on the exploits of top club TP Mazembe in winning the African Champions League in 2009 and 2010.
Niger are the fourth side in the pool and although they will not be expected to advance to the knockout stages, they could play a 'joker' role and steal vital points off their more illustrious opponents.
The pool will be based in the east coast city of Port Elizabeth and the matches played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Group C includes African champions Zambia, who will expect to advance from this pool along with Nigeria. Those two are the obvious contenders for the quarterfinals, with Burkina Faso flattering to deceive at major finals in the past.
Ethiopia are an improved side, but not quite the same force outside their fortress Addis Ababa and it would be a major surprise were Chipolopolo and the Super Eagles not to advance.
Group D looks the toughest to call, with Cote d'Ivoire's Golden Generation, including talismanic leader Didier Drogba, seeking the one prize that has cruelly eluded them over the past eight or so years.
This is probably their last shot at glory, but they must come through a difficult pool that contains the twin north African threat of Tunisia and Algeria, as well as the unpredictable Togolese. Algeria are the most highly-rated of those sides, while the Tunisians are the type of team who on their day can be more than a match for the best the continent has to offer.
Togo have recently been boosted by the return of their talisman, Emmanuel Adebayor, who has locked horns with Drogba on many an occasion in the past and will do so again.
The top two sides in groups A and B will face-off against each other in the quarterfinals, while the two best teams in groups C and D will do likewise.
The new champions of Africa will be crowned in a final back at Soccer City on February 10. The road there certainly looks to be an exciting one.
The match schedule for the 2013 African Nations Cup final in South Africa (kick off times GMT):
In Johannesburg: South Africa v Cape Verde Islands (16h00); Angola v Morocco (19h00)
In Durban: South Africa v Angola (15h00); Morocco v Cape Verde Islands (18h00)
In Durban: Morocco v South Africa (17h00)
In Port Elizabeth: Cape Verde Islands v Angola (17h00)
In Port Elizabeth: Ghana v DR Congo (15h00); Mali v Niger (18h00)
In Port Elizabeth: Ghana v Mali (15h00); Niger v DR Congo (18h00)
In Port Elizabeth: Niger v Ghana (17h00)
In Durban: Mali v DR Congo (17h00)
In Nelspruit: Zambia v Ethiopia (15h00); Nigeria v Burkina Faso (18h00)
In Nelspruit: Zambia v Nigeria (15h00); Burkina Faso v Ethiopia (18h00)
In Nelspruit: Burkina Faso v Zambia (17h00)
In Rustenburg: Nigeria v Ethiopia (17h00)
In Rustenburg: Ivory Coast v Togo (15h00); Tunisia v Algeria (18h00)
In Rustenburg: Ivory Coast v Tunisia (15h00); Algeria v Togo (18h00)
In Rustenburg: Algeria v Ivory Coast (17h00)
In Nelspruit: Tunisia v Togo (17h00)
In Durban: Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B (18h30)
In Port Elizabeth: Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A (15h00)
In Nelspruit: Winner Group C v Runner-up Group D (18h30)
In Rustenburg: Winner Group D v Runner-up Group C (15h00)
In Durban: Winner Durban v Winner Rustenburg (15h00)
In Nelspruit: Winner Nelspruit v Winner Port Elizabeth (18h30)
THIRD PLACE PLAY-OFF
In Port Elizabeth: Loser Durban vs Loser Nelspruit (18h00)
FINAL February 10
In Johannesburg: Winner Durban vs Winner Nelspruit (18h00).