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CAF2023 draws: Group A pits Ivory Coast, Nigeria in West African affair

Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau   -  
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Ivory Coast

Reaction is following the announcement of draws of the group stage of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023 as the official draw set up some tantalising matches following Thursday's event in Abidjan.

Hosts Cote d'Ivoire will play regional rivals Nigeria at the group stage while defending champions Senegal were pitted against Cameroon while record winners Egypt renew hostilities with Ghana after the draw was made.

In a captivating ceremony with current and former football superstars, Didier Drogba, Mikel Obi, Sadio Mane and Achraf Hakimi, supporting as draw assistants.

Group A's west African affair includes hosts Cote d'Ivoire, regional rivals Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Senegal, who triumphed earlier this year, were drawn in Group C against Cameroon, Guinea and AFCON debutants Gambia in what looks a competitive pool.

Ironically, Senegal meet Cameroon in a friendly in France on Monday as part of their build-up to defend the trophy on Ivorian soil.

Egypt, hunting a record-extending eighth continental crown, will face Ghana in Group B in a repeat of the 2010 final which the Pharaohs won late on. Cape Verde and Mozambique complete the group. Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Angola add further star quality to Group D in another exciting pool.

Africanews correspondent Wahany Sambo picked group C to be the most difficult. " It seems to me, is group C, where the reigning African champions, Senegal, play, and where we meet Cameroon, and everyone knows what a Senegal-Cameroon match is like" Sambo said.

"We still have in mind what happened in 2017 when Senegal was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Cameroon despite being one of the favourites. Behind them, Sadio Mané and company face two big derbies against Guinea and Gambia, two teams on the rise. We'll also be looking at Côte d'Ivoire, the host nation, whose main opponents will be Nigeria. But beware, behind them, there are teams like Guinea-Bissau, who have accumulated a lot of experience, as this will be their 5th consecutive qualification.''

Cote d'Ivoire is hosting the continent's showpiece event from 13 January to 11 February 2024. Matches will take place at six venues across the country, including newly constructed stadiums in Abidjan, Korhogo and San Pedro.

''If I had to pick the ultra-favorites for this competition, it would be Morocco, semi-finalists in the World Cup and rising stars in recent months. So, in my opinion, the Atlas Lions remain the main favourites" says Sambo the Africanews journalist 

"And behind them, we have Côte d'Ivoire, who will have the advantage of playing in front of their own fans with a fairly experienced coach, even if it's not on the African stage. Today, if I had to pick a quartet, I'd put Senegal, Morocco, Algeria and Côte d'Ivoire in it" Sambo added.

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