Africa Cup of Nations spotlight shifts to Equatorial Guinea for tournament draw

Hosts earn unexpected reprieve after being disqualified from competition for fielding ineligible player during qualifying
Ivory Coast forward Gervinho, right, vies with Togo defender Dakonam Djene during the 2013 African Cup of Nations in Rustenburg, South Africa, on January 22, 2013 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Alexander Joe / AFP
Ivory Coast forward Gervinho, right, vies with Togo defender Dakonam Djene during the 2013 African Cup of Nations in Rustenburg, South Africa, on January 22, 2013 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Alexander Joe / AFP

All eyes in Africa will be on Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday as the capital Malabo hosts the draw for the African Cup of Nations just weeks after Morocco were stripped of the right to host the event.

The ceremony to select the groups for the January 17 to February 6 continental showpiece had been set for Rabat before Morocco asked for the tournament to be postponed because of the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 7,000 in west Africa.

Morocco were instead stripped of the right to host the tournament and disqualified from the event as Equatorial Guinea stepped in as last-minute hosts.

Equatorial Guinea, who co-hosted in 2012 with Gabon, face a race to be ready with less than two months until kick-off, and the draw is set to unveil further indications of progress.

One aspect that has not changed is the format, with four groups of four teams drawn in a round-robin first round shared between the cities of Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin.

Equatorial Guinea will be among the top seeds as hosts, six months after they were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player during a preliminary round match against Mauritania.

They will be joined as one of the top four seeds by four-time champions Ghana, 2012 winners Zambia and the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast, who lost finals in 2006 and 2012, remain a formidable force as the seedings were determined by previous African Cup of Nations results.

Their glory teams of the past have had several changes in recent years as they turn to life without retired legend Didier Drogba and now lean on the coaching leadership of dashing Frenchman Herve Renard, who led Zambia to their first title three years ago. Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and Roma striker Gervinho are key players for the Ivory Coast with a strong cast in place to support the 1992 champions.

Holders Nigeria and seven-time champions Egypt failed to qualify, leaving Algeria the danger team from hat No 2 alongside 2013 finalists Burkina Faso, Mali and Tunisia.

On paper, Pot 4 appears stronger than the third set of teams, with former giants Senegal, Cameroon and Guinea joining the Congo while Cape Verde, South Africa, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo round out Pot 3.

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Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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