Football: AFCON Hosts Ivory Coast To Face Nigeria In Group Stages

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Host Ivory Coast has been joined in Group A by Nigeria in the draw for the Africa Cup of Nations in Abidjan on Thursday. Fast-improving Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau teams, who have qualified for a fourth straight edition, complete the mini-league.

Ivory Coast, seeking a third Cup of Nations title, will meet Guinea-Bissau in the opening match on 13 January in Abidjan, the economic hub. The Ivorian clash with three-time champions Nigeria will attract most attention among the six Group A fixtures. Nigeria was last crowned Cup of Nations winners in 2013 in South Africa and the Ivory Coast succeeded them two years later in Equatorial Guinea.

Other heavyweight pairings include defending champions Senegal with five-time winners Cameroon, while Africa’s first World Cup semifinalists Morocco face the Democratic Republic of Congo. Morocco was drawn in Group F with DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania. The Atlas Lions have won the premier African football competition only once, in 1976. Their best performance since then was finishing runners-up to 2004 hosts Tunisia.

Defending champions Senegal are in Group C with five-time winners Cameroon, Guinea and the Gambia. South Africa will face Tunisia, Mali and Namibia in Group E while Ghana take on Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique in Group B. Group D, comprising Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Angola, completes the line-up for a tournament that will reach a climax with the final on 11 February.

Senegalese-American singer Akon hosted the draw, assisted by current and former African stars Sadio Mane, Achraf Hakimi, Didier Drogba and John Obi Mikel. Ivory Coast will be hosting the premier African sport event for a second time, and hoping for much better results than in 1984.

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