Thursday, June 20, 2024

Super Eagles, Bafana Bafana May Face Morocco In AFCON Group Stage

The draw for the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will hold tomorrow in Abidjan, Ivorian economic capital, with the Super Eagles of Nigeria likely to face the Bafana Bafana of South Africa, as well as the Atlas Lions of Morocco in what could be the group of death.

The Super Eagles, who crashed out in the group of 16 at the last AFCON in Cameroon, is among the second seeds for tomorrow’s draw, while South Africa has a place among the third seeds.

Morocco, who created history at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by becoming the first semifinalists from Africa, is among the six top seeds. If The Gambia, who surprised many by reaching the 2021 Cup of Nations’ quarterfinals, is drawn in the same group, it would be a striking “group of death,” the term given to particularly tough sections. The Gambia is among the teams in the fourth pot.

Nigeria, a three-time winner of the premier African football competition, and former champions, South Africa, were unlucky not to be seeded higher.

The Super Eagles lie sixth in the continental rankings and, ordinarily, would have been a top seed, avoiding Morocco, title-holder Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt in the group stage.

But host countries not only automatically qualify for the two-yearly tournament, they are also always among the first seeds. To accommodate ninth-ranked Cote d’Ivoire, sixth-placed Nigeria had to give way and now share second-seed status with Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa had been ranked above DR Congo for some time but, in the rankings that decided the seedings, they were placed one place below the Congolese.

It was an ironic change of positions as South Africa defeated DR Congo in a friendly match just a couple of days before the rankings were released.

The other third seeds are Cape Verde, Guinea, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania, while the fourth seeds include Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Gambia and Tanzania.

Zambia, who were 2012 champions thanks to a penalty shootout victory over Didier Drogba-inspired Cote d’Ivoire, are back at the Cup of Nations after three straight failures to qualify.

Zambia and Mozambique, whose last appearance was in 2010, are the only qualifiers who have not featured in at least one of the last two tournaments.
Despite a poor Cup of Nations record, Morocco is set to be installed as favourites to win the January 13 to February 11, 2024 competition.

It has been champion just once in 33 editions — topping a 1976 group in Ethiopia in one of only two editions where a mini-league determined the champions.

At the 2022 AFCON, Morocco was eliminated by Egypt in the quarterfinals. All six top seeds plus Nigeria, Cameroun, Ghana, DR Congo, South Africa and Zambia have won the Cup of Nations. The other champions — Ethiopia, Sudan and Congo Brazzaville — did not qualify.

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