Newcomers Cape Verde will meet host country South Africa in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations soccer opener.
The small island country in the Central Atlantic Ocean upset six-time World Cup qualifier Cameroon 3-2 on goal aggregate to secure its place in the regional tournament. The other teams in the group are Morocco and Angola.
Group “B” comprises Ghana, the Democratic People Republic of Congo, Niger and Mali; while Group “C” is made up of Zambia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. The Group “D” participants are Ivory Coast, Togo, Tunisia and Algeria.
Former South Africa captain, Neil Tovey, believes Nigeria, which missed the last Africa Cup of Nations finals, is the team to watch.
“They possess an abundance of talent and my good friend Stephen Keshi is settling down nicely as coach and getting them well organized,” said Tovey. “He has so many good soccer players to choose from.”
Keshi replaced Samson Siasia as coach a year ago.
Ethiopia is making its first appearance in the tournament finals since 1982.
“We respect every opponent we might meet, but already we’ve played the hosts and they failed to beat us,” said Ethiopia’s coach, Sewnet Bishaw.
Ethiopia and South Africa drew 1-1 earlier this year.
The next Africa Cup of Nations finals will be held from January 19 to February 10, 2013.
Meanwhile, Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast are among 23 male players shortlisted for the International Soccer Player of the Year award.
The winners will be revealed at the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich on January 7.
By RON FANFAIR