South Africans sighed a huge relief when SA President, Jacob Zuma pulled Afcon debutants, Cape Verde Islands, out of Pot 4 to hand Bafana Bafana what, on paper, looks like an easy opener for the hosts.
Bafana Bafana, one of the four seeded teams, were included in Group A with 2010 hosts Angola, 1976 champions Morocco, and Cape Verde, a small island nation off the west coast of Africa, in the final draw made in Durban on tonight.
However, Cape Verde’s growing dominance in international football, including their impressive showing in the qualifiers which included a 3-2 victory over Cameroon cannot be undermined by the South Africans.
West African giants Ghana were drawn alongside Mali, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo in Group B.
Title holders Zambia will face Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Group C.
Ivory Coast, seeded in Group D, are up against Tunisia, Algeria and Togo.
The three-week tournament, starting on January 19, will be played at five stadiums, FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
However, Cape Verde’s growing dominance in international football, including their impressive showing in the qualifiers which included a 3-2 victory over Cameroon cannot be undermined by the South Africans
Libya originally won the hosting rights, but the tournament was moved to South Africa due to political unrest in the North African country.
South Africa have hosted the tournament once before, in 1996, when Bafana Bafana defeated Tunisia 2-0 in the final to lift their only African Cup of Nations title.
President Zuma led the delegation of dignitaries at the function. The guest list, of about 2 000, also included association heads from the other 15 qualified countries.
Earlier, an open-top bus taking musicians and celebrities around Durban townships marked the start of a series of events leading up to the African Cup of Nations next year.
Crowds at uMlazi and KwaMashu waved and cheered as the open-top bus decorated with colourful African flags drove through, advertising the continental showpiece set to kick off next year.
The tournament will kick off on 19 January at 18h00.
Additional reporting by Sapa.