Bafana Bafana to take on Cape Verde in 2013 Afcon opener

Didier Drogba's Côte d'Ivoire will be tested by former champions Tunisia and Algeria in the group stage after a tough draw Wednesday for the title favourite.

"This is most certainly the group of death," Côte d'Ivoire coach Sabri Lamouchi said after his team was drawn alongside Togo and the strong North African pair for the tournament next January and February.

Four-time winner Ghana was grouped with Congo, Mali and Niger. Defending champion Zambia will play against Ethiopia before matches with Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

"I know all those teams are difficult to play," Zambia coach and 2012 title-winning mentor Herve Renard said. "Now we have to do the same performance like in 2010 and 2012. We finished first in our group and we have to do the same again."

South Africa, Cape Verde, Morocco and Angola make up Group A. Bafana Bafana and Cape Verde will open the tournament at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium – formerly Soccer City and the venue for the 2010 World Cup final – on January 19.

Top-ranked African team Côte d'Ivoire will play Emmanuel Adebayor's Togo first in group D on January 22, then Tunisia and Algeria in a stern challenge for the Ivorians, who lost in the final last time.

"It is a very difficult group with opponents of the highest quality," Lamouchi said. "It will be tough to beat each one. Côte d'Ivoire will still be the favourites to come out of the group … now we must try and prepare well on the field."

The Ivorians are still searching for a first title in 20 years despite being Africa's strongest team for most of the last decade. Côte d'Ivoire lost two of the last four African Cup finals, both on penalty shootouts.

South Africa meets Cape Verde and Morocco plays Angola in a double-header on the opening day of the championship at the 94,700-seat stadium in Soweto, which also will host the Feb. 10 final. The remainder of the group A games will be played at Moses Mabhida Stadium in the east coast city of Durban and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Côte d'Ivoire will be based in the north-west city of Rustenburg, Ghana will be in Port Elizabeth and Zambia in Nelspruit, in South Africa's north east.

The South Africa-Cape Verde match was drawn by South Africa President Jacob Zuma at Wednesday night's ceremony in Durban. The host country, which won the title on home soil in 1996, also avoided highly rated Nigeria in a favourable draw for its hopes of a second Cup of Nations triumph.

"For a second there I thought it could have been the group of death, so when they picked Angola there was a bit of relief," Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said. "We won't underestimate anyone. I think we can go all the way, but obviously we will need momentum and that first game against Cape Verde is hugely important to get the country behind us."

Cape Verde faces its biggest moment in international football in that opening game after eliminating four-time continental champion Cameroon in a major shock in the qualifying competition.Ghana's biggest test will likely come against Mali, which beat the Ghanaians in the third-place match at the last tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

"Three West African countries in the group makes it difficult," Ghana assistant coach Maxwell Konadu said. "We are neighbours and know each other very well, so the games will all be tight."

Less than a year after its emotional triumph in Libreville, Zambia will start its defence on January 21 against Ethiopia, which returns to the African Cup for the first time in 30 years. Zambia also must play a strong Nigeria team, which returns after missing this year's tournament and which eliminated the Zambians in the quarterfinals two years ago.

"It's a big revenge match for us (against Nigeria)," Renard said. "We lost to them in 2010 on penalties. We also have Ethiopia, who we must show a lot of respect to."

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said: "Every team that qualifies here is a good team. We have great respect for all the teams from Ethiopia to Zambia and also Burkina Faso. We have to take every one of the three seriously and come out and do the job."

The five stadiums hosting games are all former World Cup venues: FNB Stadium, Moses Mabhida, Nelson Mandela Bay, Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg and Nelspruit's Mbombela Stadium. The showpiece FNB will only host the opening game and the final, with the semifinals at Moses Mabhida and Mbombela.

South Africa is hosting the 2013 tournament in place of Libya, which lost the event because of security concerns. – Sapa-AP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Your M&G

Hi , To manage your account please click here.

You can access your digital copy of this week’s paper here.


READ IT IN FULL: Ramaphosa’s address on the extension of...

This is the full address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa on April 9

Meet the doctor leading Africa’s fight to contain the coronavirus...

Dr Matshidiso Moeti’s father helped to eliminate smallpox. Now she’s leading Africa’s efforts against the coronavirus

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world