Egypt and Cameroon benefited from being hosts and title-holders respectively when the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations draw seedings were announced Thursday.
The draw in Cairo Friday will be based on the April FIFA rankings which, ordinarily, would have placed Cameroon (ranked 54) and Egypt (57) among the second seeds.
But it is a worldwide football tradition that hosts and title-holders are among the top seeds and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee followed suit.
Cameroon were the original 2019 hosts for the tournament, but delays in preparations and security concerns forced a switch to Egypt, who will stage the tournament a fifth time.
The other four top seeds are 2002 runners-up Senegal and three former champions, Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco.
Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana — who lost out on top seedings because of Egypt and Cameroon — Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Algeria are the second seeds.
DR Congo (when called Zaire), Ghana, Ivory Coast and Algeria have won the competition and Mali and Guinea came agonisingly close, finishing runners-up.
South Africa are the lone former champions among the third seeds, which also include Uganda, Benin, Mauritania, Madagascar and Kenya.
Uganda were runners-up to hosts Ghana in 1978, then failed to qualify for 39 years before securing a place at the 2017 Cup of Nations in Gabon.
Zimbabwe, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Tanzania and Burundi are the fourth seeds and several appear capable of causing upsets, particularly the Zimbabweans.
This will be the first 24-team Cup of Nations — up from 16 — and the timing has changed from January/February to June/July to avoid European club-versus-country clashes.
The six group winners and six runners-up automatically qualify for the knockout second round and will be joined by the four best third-placed teams.
After the eight second-round fixtures, there will be the quarter-finals, semi-finals, a third-place play-off and the final.
Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt are set to start as slight favourites to win the June 21/July 19 tournament given home advantage and passionate support.
Egypt have won the Cup of Nations a record seven times with Cameroon (five titles) and Ghana (four) the next most successful countries.
Pot 1: Egypt (hosts), Cameroon (holders), Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco
Pot 2: Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Algeria
Pot 3: South Africa, Uganda, Benin, Mauritania, Madagascar, Kenya
Pot 4: Zimbabwe, Namibia, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Tanzania, Burundi