Cup holders Nigeria will battle South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia at the group stage of the 3rd Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt next month, following the draw held in Alexandria last night.
All Group B matches will hold at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo – one of the venues for last summer’s 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Host nation Egypt will be up against Ghana, Cameroon and Mali in a hard-as-nails Group A with matches at the Cairo International Stadium.
The Olympic Eagles will play their first game against Cote d’Ivoire, before further matches against Zambia and South Africa in the group stage. Only the top three teams at the tournament will qualify to represent Africa at the men’s football tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Coach of South Africa, David Notone, said after the draw: “The truth is that whatever group you fall into would always be tough. We have eight very strong teams here and any team could have fallen anywhere, except Egypt and Nigeria that headed the groups.
“I call Group B a pool of derbies, with two West African teams and two Southern African teams. Group A is the pool of death, no doubt about it. It is going to be fight-to-finish in both groups.
Former Ghanaian international midfielder Ibrahim Tanko, who is coach of Ghana and whose team shocked bookmakers by defeating Algeria away after both teams drew 1-1 in Ghana in the final qualifying round, said: “Everyone is saying it is tough, but I think it is impressive. This simply means that you have to prepare very hard, play each match like the final and take your chances.
“Any team having illusions of recovering after a false start will be sorely disappointed. I think we are going to have tough, spectacular games all the way in the tournament.”
The draw was conducted by CAF’s Director of Competitions, Samson Adamu, who kept it simple yet sophisticated, and former Egyptian international Emad Meteab.