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Ivory Coast get short straw for Africa Cup
Title favourites Ivory Coast will have much the toughest task among the top seeds when the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in South Africa during January.
The top-ranked national team on the continent are in Group D with Algeria (2) and Tunisia (7) and even outsiders Togo (24) have proved troublesome for the 'Elephants' in the past.
Other top seeds South Africa, Ghana and Zambia have no reason to complain and can blame only themselves should they fail to claim a top-two finish and advance to the quarter-finals.
South Africa tackle Cape Verde Islands, Angola and Morocco, title holders Zambia face Ethiopia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, and Ghana confront Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Niger.
South Africa got almost the perfect draw -- they would have preferred Niger to Morocco -- as they seek to emulate the 1996 Bafana Bafana (The Boys) squad and win the competition at home.
Although coach Gordon Igesund has only six months to build a team, they are capable of topping the table, leaving Angola and Morocco to fight for second spot while Cape Verde try to build on a shock qualifying win over Cameroon.
Having finished third, second and fourth in the last three tournaments, Ghana are desperate to go all the way and end 31 years without a trophy they have lifted four times.
Ghana know Mali well, having won and lost to them at the 2012 finals, the Congolese are probably the most dangerous 'weaklings' while not too much is expected of a Niger side that normally struggles away from Niamey.
This pool could develop into two contests -- one for first place between Zambia and Nigeria and another between Burkina Faso and Ethiopia to avoid finishing bottom.
Nigeria have won twice and drawn once in four previous games against Zambia, have also beaten Burkina Faso and Ethiopia before, and know that topping the table could mean dodging Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals.
Ivory Coast do not have good Cup of Nations records against their three rivals, winning only twice in eight matches, and much could depend on how well the mental scars of 2012 heal.
They did not concede a goal in six matches nor lose, but the trophy eluded Didier Drogba and the 'golden generation' again. Expect a fierce three-way struggle with Algeria and Tunisia for two places.
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