Afcon draw favours Bafana

2012-10-25 00:00

AFTER the speeches were done and ministers from just about everywhere were made to feel welcome, South Africa learnt that Bafana Bafana will play the Cape Verde Islands in their first 2013 Africa Cup of Nations fixture at Soccer City on January 19.

This emerged from last night’s draw for the competition at the Durban ICC, which confirmed that Bafana’s other two Group A matches will be at Moses Mabhida Stadium against Angola (January 23) and Morocco (January 27).

It is a draw that bodes well for Bafana’s hopes at the competition.

Cape Verde will be making their first appearance at an Afcon tournament, but the Blue Sharks are ranked 25 places higher than Bafana (76th) in the Fifa world rankings, which suggests that they will be no pushover.

In fact, the debutants are the highest ranked of the four teams in Group A, with Morocco just a place higher than Bafana in 75th and Angola in 83rd.

Rankings aside, it is a draw that should leave Bafana fans optimistic.

Group D is without a doubt the tournament’s group of death and will see the two highest ranked sides in the competition — Ivory Coast and Algeria — square off while Tunisia and Togo will offer competitive resistance.

Elsewhere, defending champions Zambia will have to contend with African giants Nigeria, while Burkina Faso and Ethiopia round up Group C.

In Group B, Ghana and former powerhouses of African football, the Democratic Republic of Congo will fancy their chances against Mali and Niger.

The draw also means that, should Bafana qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition, they will face one of the qualifiers from Group B, depending on who tops their respective groups.

National coach Gordon Igesund said immediately after the draw that he was satisfied with the way things turned out.

“I’m very happy,” the coach said. “I think it is a very good draw for us.”

But as happy as he may be, the coach was quick to quell any notions that there is an advantage in playing Cape Verde in their opening fixture.

“Today there are never any easy games in football,” he said. “They [Cape Verde] are a very good side and they did fantastically well to knock Cameroon, who we all know are giants in Africa, out of the qualifiers.”

Asked about Bafana’s hopes of winning the tournament for the second time in their history, Igesund was hopeful. “I always believe that any host nation starts the tournament with a fantastic chance of winning it.”

“If you look at the passion for football in this country and the amount of people that are going to be behind us, then there is definitely a chance.”

His sentiments were shared by former Bafana Bafana captain and a member of the side that won the tournament in 1996, Lucas Radebe.

“The fans need to get behind their team. I would love to see if Bafana can do what we did in ’96,” said Radebe.

If Bafana manage to finish top of their group, they will play their quarter-final in Durban on Febuary 2 and, should they win that, will book their spot for a semi-final four days later at the same venue.

The final will be played at Soccer City on Febuary 10.

GROUP A: South Africa, Angola, Morrocco, Cape Verde

GROUP B: Ghana, Mali, Niger, DR Congo

GROUP C: Zambia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia

GROUP D: Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Algeria, Togo

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