The final draw for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), to be hosted by South Africa next year, has seen South Africa being drawn in group A with Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco.
All these teams will be based in Durban.
The host team is expected to go out guns blazing in their opening match against minnows Cape Verde at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg on January 19.
Angola will now participate in their sixth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations since 2006 and their seventh in total, while the Cape Verdians shocked the football world when they eliminated the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to reach their first ever Afcon tournament.
The final draw took place on Wednesday night at Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.
While most South Africans may believe that group A is going to be a ‘piece of cake’ for Bafana, the national team head coach, Gordon Igesund, said: “I think this is fair and a very tough group. I am quite happy with the draw. It would be Cape Verde’s first appearance in this competition and we don’t know much about them. However, we do know that they have knocked-out Cameroon, so they can’t be too bad.
“We will know more about them by the time we play them. If you eliminate Cameroon, you have to be a useful team.”
Asked if he had hoped to have avoided being drawn in the same group with either Nigeria or Mali, Igesund said: “We would have been ready for everybody, we will be ready for anybody. If we go to the finals as the host, we will have to play either team in the quarter or semi-finals.”
According to the Bafana coach, the draw presented him with an opportunity to start planning against his opponents.
“Once you know your opposition, you have to start planning. It helps with planning how you are going to face them. We all know that Morocco is the giant in North African football,” he said, adding that it would be ideal for him to secure a friendly match with one of the North Africa teams ahead of the Afcon tournament to help him plan against Morocco.
Former Bafana skipper Lucas Radebe tipped the current Bafana squad to emulate the 1996 team that won the title as host that year.
“We were a very united and focused team, hungry to bring more success for South Africa as we walked to the pitch. We knew that we had support from every South African.
“As a host nation, it will be very important for the entire nation to rally behind our national team,” he said.
Asked who will lift the trophy at the tournament finals on February 10 at Soccer City, the retired footballer said with a smile: “That is a tough one because there are some good teams who will want to win this tournament. However, I would like to see the current Bafana team emulating what we achieved in 1996 and I’m confident that under Igesund, we are capable of doing it.”
Group B comprises Ghana, DRC, Niger and Mali and all these teams will be based in Port Elizabeth.
More football entertainment is expected in group C, which comprise the defending champions Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. These teams will based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
The so-called group of death, group D comprises Ivory Coast, Togo, Algeria and Tunisia.
During the draw last night, Takuma was announced as the tournament mascot, while the official match ball will be called Katlego.
Bafana are obliged to put up a brilliant performance as they did in 1996 when they won the trophy at home. South Africa have participated in eight Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, with one title in 1996 and one runner up medal in 1998. – SAnews.gov.za