MALABO: Four-time winners, Ghana, Algeria, South Africa and Senegal have been drawn together in the ‘Group of Death’ for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
The four teams are housed in Group C after the draw at the Sipopo Convention Centre in Malabo.
The quartet represents unarguably one of the strongest teams on the continent at the moment, making the group to be based in Mongomo one to look out for.
Ghana’s Black Stars and ‘Les Fennecs’ of Algeria were among the five African teams at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil last June, with the latter going past the group stage before losing out to eventual winners, Germany at the Round of 16.
South Africa on the other hand pulled one of the biggest surprises during the qualifiers, denying holders Nigeria the chance to make a successful defence whilst Senegal are enjoying a new breeze of life under Frenchman Alain Giresse.
Hosts Equatorial Guinea were handed a seemingly balanced draw being paired in Group A alongside neighbours, Gabon, regional rivals Congo and Burkina Faso. The group to be based in Bata, has three teams from the Central Africa, making it a pairing of familiar faces.
Group B to be based in Ebibeyin has 2012 winners, Zambia; 2004 winners Tunisia, Cape Verde and DR Congo, who qualified as the best third-place team.
Malabo-based Group D has 1992 winners, Cote d’Ivoire; four-time winners Cameroon, Mali and Guinea.
On his part, President Mbasogo said his Government accepted to host the tournament at the short notice following the withdrawal of Morocco due to three reasons.
“Firstly, for the honour and dignity of Africa. Secondly, in the spirit of African solidarity and finally, to safeguard the dignity of the African youth,” whilst calling on the rest of the continent for their support in hosting a successful tournament.
Hosts Equatorial Guinea will face Congo in the opening match on Saturday, January 17, in Bata.
Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Congo
Group B: Zambia, Tunisia, Cape Verde, DR Congo
Group C: Ghana, Algeria, South Africa, Senegal
Group D: Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Cameroon, Guinea
The draw ceremony lasted exactly 75-minutes and was spiced with musical performances by renowned Cameroonian Saxophonist, Manu Dibango and Senegalese singer, Woz Kaly.
In a speech, CAF President, Issa Hayatou expressed gratitude to the Government of Equatorial Guinea especially President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo for accepting to host the tournament despite the short notice.
“On behalf of CAF, I thank His Excellency President Obiang Mbasogo. We appreciate your decision to host the tournament in less than 2 months, a courageous decision worth mention for an emerging African country. CAF will never forget this gesture,” Hayatou remarked.