Africa Cup of Nations draw
The 24 teams set to contest the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations learned their group-stage fate on Friday, during an elaborate draw ceremony at the Pyramids of Giza, outside Cairo.
African football royalty Yaya Toure, El Hadji Diouf, Mustapha Hadji and Ahmed Hassan were responsible for drawing the six groups, but which of the continent’s sides will be happy with their lot, and who will be disappointed?
Here are the winners and losers from Friday’s draw.
The Super Eagles can be thoroughly delighted with their draw, and will have the opportunity to ease into the tournament. Madagascar and Burundi may have impressed in qualifying, but both are complete novices at this level—they’ve never featured at the tournament before—and shouldn’t really offer much resistance for the Super Eagles.
Guinea won’t be quite such a straightforward prospect, but realistically, they were among the weakest Pot Two teams, and things could have been much trickier for Gernot Rohr’s side.
The Harambee Stars boast a fine defensive record, having impressed during qualification—including a 1-0 victory over Ghana. However, that backline will be sternly tested when they come up against both Senegal and Algeria in Group C.
The Teranga Lions’ attack will be spearheaded by Liverpool superstar Sadio Mane, while in-form Algerian attackers Baghdad Bounedjah and Ishak Belfodil will be supported by a particularly able supporting cast.
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After being dropped into Pot Two the day before the qualifiers, the Black Stars could have had things much trickier than the draw they received on Friday.
Admittedly, they’ll have to face holders Cameroon, who defeated them in the 2017 semi-finals, but the Indomitable Lions haven’t truly convinced under Clarence Seedorf to date.
Benin and Guinea-Bissau complete the group, and neither will roll over, but Ghana could have faced much trickier foe.
Losers: South Africa
Bafana Bafana demonstrated some immense defensive resiliency during the qualifiers, conceding just twice as they advanced alongside Nigeria.
However, after being drawn alongside Morocco and the Cote d’Ivoire, they’ll now have to prove they can keep some of the continent’s finest attackers—and offensive units—at bay.
A recent 0-0 draw with the Seychelles was a reminder that Bafana can lack a cutting edge…and ideas in the final third.
Will this leave them short in the Group of Death?
The Carthage Eagles might be flying under the radar as potential Afcon winners. They’ve recruited well in recent years, will have learned a lot from their World Cup experience, and will feel right at home in North Africa.
They’ve also been handed a favourable draw, where Mali, Mauritania and Angola shouldn’t pose too many problems.