Cape Verde to open Africa Cup of Nations

South African President Jacob Zuma holds up a piece of paper bearing Cape Verde's name to Confederation of African Football chairman Issa Hayatou during Wednesday's Africa Cup of Nations draw in Durban.

Story highlights

  • Minnows Cape Verde will open Africa Cup of Nations when taking on hosts South Africa
  • Island nation of half a million inhabitants caused shock of qualifying when eliminating four-time winners Cameroon
  • Favorites Ivory Coast drawn in tough Group D with Algeria, Tunisia and Togo
  • Reigning champions Zambia must face Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia

Debutants Cape Verde will open the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations when they take on hosts South Africa in Johannesburg on 19 January.

The island nation of just half a million inhabitants, who stunned Cameroon in the final round of qualifying, will also face Morocco and Angola in Group A at next year's tournament.

The draw for Africa's premier sporting event took place on Wednesday in Durban, a city which will host a handful of Group A games.

"All the draws were tough and I think this is a fairly good draw for us," South Africa coach Gordon Igesund told the website of African football's ruling body CAF.

Group D would appear to be the most evenly contested group at the finals, with Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast -- who have lost two of the last finals on a penalty shoot-out alone -- taking on Algeria, Tunisia and a Togo side that boasts Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

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"It's undeniably the most difficult group," said Ivory Coast's French coach Sabri Lamouchi, who rallied his side's chances nonetheless. "Ivory Coast is the favorite. We were favorites before the draw, and still are after it. We will have to prove it on the field."

The Ivorians are the top ranked team on the continent in the eyes of world governing body Fifa while Algeria, who missed out on the 2012 finals despite appearing at the 2010 World Cup, lie just behind them.

Meanwhile, Tunisia won the competition on home soil in 2004 while the Togolese are set to play at their first Nations Cup since withdrawing from the 2010 edition in Angola after two members of their delegation were killed in a terror attack in the state of Cabinda.

Reigning African champions Zambia, who will be based in Nelspruit, must emerge from a Group C containing two-time winners Nigeria, Burkina Faso and an Ethiopian side making its first appearance in over three decades if they are to defend their trophy.

The team nicknamed the Chipolopolo won this year's tournament, which was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and coach Herve Renard believes they can silence the doubters once again.

"We are confident. We are here to make history," he told cafonline.com. "We did it in 2012. No one was able to say Zambia will win in 2012. We stayed a small team but managed to go very far."

Finally, Group B pits Ghana against Niger, Mali and a resurgent Democratic Republic of Congo, who are back at their first finals since 2006.

Following their 2010 World Cup exploits, Ghana's Black Stars are widely seen as one of Africa's leading sides but they were beaten for third place at the 2012 finals by Mali, who stand above them in FIFA's world rankings.

South Africa will use five World Cup stadiums for the Nations Cup -- with Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg joining Durban, Nelspruit and Johannesburg -- with the latter city set to host the tournament finale on 10 February.

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