Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund will be happy with the draw for the 2013 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals kicking off in South Africa in January, after they drew Cape Verde for the tournament opener in Durban on Wednesday evening. The island nation will be contesting the continental finals for the first time.
Bafana Bafana were one of four seeded teams for the draw, but were not the highest ranked team in Group A. That honour goes to their opening match opposition, Cape Verde, ranked 51st in the world by Fifa.
Also drawn in the group are 1976 African champions Morocco, ranked 75th in the world, one place above South Africa, ranked 76th, and 2010 Afcon hosts Angola, ranked 83rd.
'We need to be fired up'
"They're games that are winnable for us," commented Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund, "and we need to be fired up, and come the 19th of January we will be ready."
The draw was attended by South African President Jacob Zuma and included the association heads of the other 15 countries that qualified for the final.
In his address to the gathering, Zuma cited the uniting spirit of football, saying: "Each match will be a demonstration that sport, particularly football, can be a catalyst for social change, peace and unity in the African continent.
"For this reason, the AU's [African Union's] long-term aim is to promote football as a continent-wide and integrative sport," Zuma said.
'Group of death'
While the tournament draw went about as well as South Africa could hope for, there was no doubt that Group D, made up of Côte d'Ivoire, Algeria, Tunisia and Togo emerged as the "group of death". The Fifa world rankings reveal that the Ivorians are ranked 16th, Algeria 24th, Tunisia 45th and Togo 93rd. The first three teams have all been in fine form in 2012.
Côte d'Ivoire boasts a record this year of 10 wins, three draws and only one loss on penalties to Zambia in the final of Afcon, Algeria have won six of seven matches and scored 17 goals along the way, while Tunisia's record is seven wins, four draws and three losses, but they have not been beaten since a 2-1 extra time loss to Ghana in early February.
While Togo's form has been less impressive, they possess in striker Emmanuel Adebayor a player capable of changing the outcome of a game on his own.
Four-time champions Ghana, who will be chasing their first Afcon title in 30 years, were drawn in Group B with Mali, Niger and the Demoratic Republic of Congo.
The Black Stars and the Eagles should be strong favourites over Niger and DR Congo to progress from the group to the knockout stages of the tournament. The Fifa rankings reveal Ghana in 31st place, Mali at number 27, DR Congo at 103 and Niger at 137.
The biggest opposition to title holders Zambia in Group C will likely come from two-time champiopns Nigeria, who although they are ranked a relatively low 63rd by Fifa, have a team that includes some instantly recognisable and proven star players. Joining them in the group were Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.
The tournament kicks off on 19 January at the FNB Stadium outside Soweto - the venue known as Soccer City during the 2010 Fifa World Cup - when Bafana Bafana face Cape Verde, followed by a clash between Angola and Morocco at the same venue.
Matches will also be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, and Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium. All the venues will be familiar to those who followed the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
As it was in that tournament, the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will host the third and fourth place playoff, which takes place on 9 February, while the final will be played at the FNB Stadium on Sunday, 10 February.