JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Africa Cup of Nations defending champions Nigeria were grouped with South Africa and Sudan when the 2015 qualifying draw was made in Cairo Sunday.
The Group A line-up will be completed by the winners of a preliminary tie involving Namibia, Congo Brazzaville, Libya and Rwanda.
Nigeria can be confident of making the 16-team finals between January 17 and February 8 in Moroccan cities Agadir, Marrakech, Rabat and Tangier.
They are a bogey side for South Africa — never losing a competitive match to Bafana Bafana (The Boys) — and Sudan have struggled lately.
Every draw creates a ‘group of death’ and Group G fits the bill with Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal and one from Burundi, Botswana, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.
Egypt have lifted the Cup of Nations a record seven times, hosts Tunisia triumphed in 2004 and Senegal were the strongest third seeds.
Another mini-league set to generate fierce competition is Group D, which includes Ivory Coast, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The remaining place in that section will be filled by Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Gambia or the Seychelles.
Didier Drogba-skippered Ivory Coast started the last five Cup of Nations tournaments as title favourites, but the closest they came to glory was finishing runners-up twice.
Cameroon have shown signs of recovery under German coach Volker Finke after failing to make the last two African tournaments.
DR Congo rank among the sleeping giants of African football and much could hinge on who succeeds veteran Frenchman Claude le Roy as coach.
Ghana, whose last of four Cup of Nations triumphs came in 1982, should not be unduly troubled by modest fellow west African opponents Togo and Guinea.
Uganda, whose last appearance at the tournament was 36 years ago, Madagascar, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea are going to battle for the other Group E slot.
Shock 2012 champions Zambia are another country who can have no complaints having drawn the Cape Verde Islands, Niger and one from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Sudan.
Debutants Cape Verde reached the 2013 quarter-finals and will be favoured to advance with the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets).
Burkina Faso, who greatly exceeded expectations by reaching the final last year before losing 1-0 to Nigeria, are in Group C with Gabon and Angola.
That section could be completed by Kenya — long overdue a finals appearance — with Liberia, Lesotho and the Comoros Islands the other contenders.
Group B comprises Mali, Algeria, resurgent Ethiopia and one from Sao Tome e Principe, Benin, Malawi and Chad.
The two-leg preliminary rounds will be staged between mid-May and early August and the six-matchday group stage kicks off during September.
Group winners and runners-up and the best third-place team secure places at the finals with hosts Morocco.