Africa Cup of Nations defending champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria were yesterday drawn with 1996 champions, the Bafana Bafana of South Africa and Sudan in the Group A of the qualifying draws of the 2015 AFCON to be hosted by Morocco. At the draws ceremony which held in Cairo, Egypt, the fourth country to complete the group is the winner of the preliminary tie involving Namibia, Congo Brazzaville, Libya and Rwanda.
Immediately after the draws, football aficionados told THISDAY that it was a good draw for Nigeria, considering the fact that Eagles have never lost a competitive match to Bafana Bafana in the past. They insisted that Eagles can be confident of making the 16-team finals scheduled for between January 17 and February 8 in Moroccan cities of Agadir, Marrakech, Rabat and Tangier. Similarly, South Africa Coach, Gordon Igesund, said it was a fair draw for his team. "I think we should be one of the two countries that qualify to the finals in Morocco."
"I was not expecting an easy draw because all countries are competitive, but I am very hopeful of qualifying for Morocco 2015. "The past two years of my tenure have been the most difficult, but now I do have a core of around 30 players from which to choose and Bafana Bafana should be one of the countries going to Morocco," said Igesund. But the same cannot be said in the Group D where Ivory Coast, Cameroun and the Democratic Republic of Congo are going to do battle. The remaining place in that section will be filled by Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Gambia or the Seychelles. Didier Drogba-skippered Ivory Coast started the last five Cup of Nations tournaments as title favourites, but the closest they came to glory was finishing runners-up twice.
Cameroun have shown signs of recovery under German coach Volker Finke after failing to make the last two African tournaments. DR Congo rank among the sleeping giants of African football and much could hinge on who succeeds veteran Frenchman Claude le Roy as coach. Ghana, whose last of four Cup of Nations triumphs came in 1982, should not be unduly troubled by modest fellow west African opponents Togo and Guinea.
The Group G pairings fit the bill of another Group of Death with Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal and one from Burundi, Botswana, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau. Egypt has lifted the Cup of Nations a record seven times, hosts Tunisia triumphed in 2004 and Senegal were the strongest third seeds. Uganda, whose last appearance at the tournament was 36 years ago, Madagascar, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea are going to battle for the other Group E slot.
Shock 2012 champions Zambia are another country who can have no complaints having drawn the Cape Verde Islands, Niger and one from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Sudan. Debutants Cape Verde reached the 2013 quarterfinals and will be favoured to advance with the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets). Burkina Faso, who greatly exceeded expectations by reaching the final last year before losing 1-0 to Nigeria, are in Group C with Gabon and Angola.
That section could be completed by Kenya - long overdue a finals appearance - with Liberia, Lesotho and the Comoros Islands the other contenders. Group B comprises Mali, Algeria, resurgent Ethiopia and one from Sao Tome e Principe, Benin, Malawi and Chad. The two-leg preliminary rounds will be staged between mid-May and early August and the six-matchday group stage kicks off during September. Group winners and runners-up and the best third-place team secure places at the finals with hosts Morocco.
Group A : Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Namibia/Congo/Libya/Rwanda Group B : Mali, Algeria, Ethiopia, winner of Sao Tome/Benin/Malawi/Chad. Group C : Burkina Faso, Angola, Gabon, winner of Liberia/Lesotho/Kenya/Comoros. Group D : Ivory Coast, Cameroun, DR Congo, winner of Swaziland/Sierra Leone/Gambia/Seychelles. Group E : Ghana, Togo, Guinea, winner of Madagascar/Uganda/Mauritania/EqGuinea. Group F : Zambia, Cape Verde, Niger, winner of Tanzania/Zimbabwe/Mozambique/South Sudan. Group G : Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, winner of Burundi/Botswana/CAR/Guinea Bissau.