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Ivorians draw Algeria, Tunisia in Africa Cup
Title favourites Ivory Coast got a double dose of North African opposition in Tunisia and Algeria when the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations draw was made here Wednesday.
Emmanuel Adebayor-inspired Togo complete Group D, which will be based in the north-western mining town of Rustenburg, and it looks the toughest of the four mini-leagues for the January 19-February 10 tournament.
The star-studded Ivorians will be particularly wary of Algeria, who came from behind twice at the 2010 tournament in Angola to stun the 'Elephants' 3-2 after extra time.
South Africa kick off the tournament against shock qualifiers Cape Verde Islands and Angola and Morocco complete Group A with most of the action set for Indian Ocean city Durban.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) defeated Angola 1-0 en route to winning the tournament at the first attempt in 1996 and can boast of two victories over Morocco in subsequent editions.
Defending champions Zambia come up against Nigeria, back after missing the 2012 finals, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia in Group C based in the north-eastern city of Nelspruit near the world famous Kruger National Park.
Ghana and Mali, who clashed twice during the 2012 tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, renew a long rivalry in Port Elizabeth-based Group B with Niger and Democratic of Congo completing the line-up.
Ivory Coast midfielder Max Gradel believes the experience of striker and captain Didier Drogba and other senior players could prove crucial when the tournament returns to South Africa after 17 years.
"There are a lot of wise old heads in the team, including Kolo and Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Didier Zokora and Kader Keita. You can always count on them and their advice is invaluable.
"I have been following the career of Didier (Drogba) since I was a little boy, watching him play when he was still at Guingamp. Playing alongside him in the national team is a dream come true for me."
The 24-year-old who joined French Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne from English second-tier club Leeds United also heaped praise on Sabri Lamouchi, a surprise choice as coach after the contract of Francois Zahoui was not renewed this year.
"He stresses that you never win anything by yourself and emphasises the importance of winning as a team. The Ivory Coast squad has so much individual talent, but the most important thing is to combine our strengths."
Former champions Cameroon and Egypt will be notable absentees -- both failing to qualify for the second consecutive time -- and 2012 co-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon did not make it either.
South Africa are utilising five 2010 World Cup stadiums -- Soccer City in Johannesburg, Moses Mabhida in Durban, Mbombela in Nelspruit, Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth and Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg -- for the African showcase.
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