Four Southern African countries will raise the regional profile at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals to be hosted by South Africa.
This is the first AFCON to be held on an odd year. Africa made this change to ensure that the tournament does not clash with the World Cup.
The World Cup is held after every four years, and on occasions that the global soccer event was hosted in the same year as the AFCON, most African teams did not perform at their best, with many attributing this to fatigue.
The World Cup is usually held in June-July while the AFCON is held in January-February.
Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and defending champions Zambia are the four Southern African Development Community (SADC) representatives.
Angola, DRC and Zambia booked their places at next year's finals as winners of two-legged clashes against Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and Uganda respectively. South Africa is participating as the host nation.
With the defending champions Zambia and the host South Africa from this region, expectations are high that one of the SADC representatives might win the trophy or at least reach the finals.
Zambia has been placed in the same group as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria. South Africa is in a group with Angola, Cape Verde and Morocco, while DRC is grouped with Ghana, Niger and Mali.
Speaking soon after the group draw was made in Durban, South Africa in October 2012, southern African representatives expressed satisfaction with the draw and pledged to do their best to win the tournament.
"All the draws were tough and I think this is a fairly good draw for us," South African coach Gordon Igesund said, adding that the hosts, Bafana Bafana, are determined to go all the way to the finals.
His Zambian counterpart, Herve Renard, whose team lifted the 2012 AFCON trophy against all odds, said Chipolopolo, as the Zambian team is affectionately known, "will prove their mettle once again".
"We are confident. We are here to make history. We did it in 2012. No one was able to say Zambia will win in 2012. We stayed a small team but we managed to go very far," he said.
DR Congo coach Claude Le Roy said he will use his vast experience in participating at the AFCON to steer DRC to victory. Le Roy is making his seventh appearance, with different African teams.
"It is my seventh Africa Cup of Nations so I know I have the experience, but I must admit that it will be difficult," the 1988 Nations Cup winner said.
The Angolan coach Gustavo Ferrin said hosting the 2010 AFCON in Luanda had helped the country improve its preparation for such tournaments. He said the Sable Antelopes would "try to qualify for the finals".
The AFCON finals will be held from 19 January to 10 February 2013. SADC is hosting the event for only the third time. South Africa hosted the finals in 1994, the first to be held in southern Africa. Angola was the second SADC country to host the finals in 2010. SADC Today