ABIDJAN – Hosts Côte d’Ivoire will play regional rivals Nigeria at the CAF 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, as the official draw has thrown up some tantalising matches following event in Abidjan.
Egypt, hunting a record-extending eighth continental crown, will face Ghana in Group B in a repeat of the 2010 final which the Pharaohs won late on. Cape Verde and Mozambique complete the group.
Defending champions Senegal was pitted against Cameroon while record winners Egypt renew hostilities with Ghana after the draw was made.
There will be a West African affair in Group A as hosts Côte d’Ivoire was paired with regional rivals Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
Senegal, who triumphed earlier this year, was drawn in Group C against Cameroon, Guinea and AFCON debutants Gambia in what looks a competitive pool.
Ironically, Senegal meets Cameroon in a friendly in France on Monday as part of their build-up to defend the trophy on Ivorian soil.
Group winners and runners-up and the four highest ranked third-placed teams qualify for knockout stage
Tournament kicks off on January 13 and ends on February 11, with matches at six stadiums in five cities
Elsewhere, AFCON semi-finallists Morocco should navigate a comfortable Group F containing DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania.
The Atlas Lions have won the premier African football competition only once, in 1976 in Ethiopia. Their best performance since then was finishing runners-up to 2004 hosts Tunisia.
Matches will take place at six venues across the country, including newly constructed stadiums in Abidjan, Korhogo and San Pedro.
The 16-team group stage was plotted in Abidjan, with Cote d’Ivoire hosting the continent’s showpiece event from 13 January to 11 February 2023.
CAFOnline shares some of the reactions from coaches and members of the participating teams post the Draw.
Augustin Senghor, President of the Senegalese FA: “Senegal inherited a tough group. But it’s in adversity that we rise to the occasion and achieve great things. We’re going to face two neighbours, Gambia and Guinea. These two have a lot to offer. Senegal-Cameroon duels have always been intense matches and we’re getting ready to face them in a few days’ time. This
friendly that we will be playing with them soon now takes on a whole new dimension with this draw”.
Jean-Louis Gasset, Côte d’Ivoire coach: “We’ve made up our minds now. We know what we’re going to work on. Facing a team like Nigeria and their attacking prowess motivates us because we’re not looking for the easy way out. We’ll be supported by an entire nation, which is an incredible asset”.
Dodo Landu, Democratic Republic of Congo Team Manager: “The big team of our group is Morocco. We met them in the play-off of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers to Qatar. We mustn’t repeat the mistakes we made in the second leg of that clash. Everyone’s eyes are on Morocco, but this group also has Zambia and Tanzania. They’re always tough to play against. It’s up to us to prepare well. We’ll be in Abidjan, a city that brings good luck to the Leopards, as we won our first CHAN here in this city”
Tom Saintfiet, Gambia coach: “We’re in the toughest group of the competition with the African champions. The boys will be more motivated to perform. We also have Cameroon, who eliminated us at the last Africa Cup of Nations. It’s going to be a great opportunity for revenge”
Achraf Hakimi, Morocco defender: “We have the tag of semi-finalists at the World Cup. We have to do everything we can to win this trophy (editor’s note: pointing to it on stage at the Parc des Expositions in Abidjan). It’s not an easy group but we’re going to focus on ourselves and our qualities to achieve our goals and objectives.”
Kaba Diawara, the Guinea coach from Portugal: “We followed the draw with the players. We are in the group of death as they say. We really respect everyone. And I hope it goes well. Either way, we really have our chances. We will have to be strong from the first match. We know we have our say. Maybe it’s not a gift for others to have us in the group. We really have a good chance of qualifying”
Group A: Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau
Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde Islands, Mozambique
Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Gambia
Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola
Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia
Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania