Nigeria, South Africa could face Morocco in AFCON group

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Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco could be placed in the same group when the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) draw is made in the Ivory Coast on Thursday. The six top seeds include Morocco, who created history at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by becoming the first semi-finalists from Africa.

Nigeria are among the second seeds while South Africa has had to settle for a place among the third seeds for the draw in Abidjan, the Ivorian economic capital. Add surprise 2021 Cup of Nations quarter-finalists Gambia from the fourth seeds and it would be a striking “group of death”, the term given to particularly tough sections. Nigeria, three-time winners of the premier African football competition, and former champions South Africa were unlucky not to be seeded higher.

The Super Eagles lie sixth in the continental rankings and, ordinarily, would have been a top seed, avoiding Morocco, title-holders Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt in the group stage. But host countries not only automatically qualify for the two-year tournament, they are also always among the first seeds. To accommodate the ninth-ranked Ivory Coast, sixth-placed Nigeria had to give way and now share second-seed status with Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa had been ranked above DR Congo for some time but, in the rankings that decided the seedings, they were placed one place below the Congolese. It was an ironic change of positions as South Africa defeated DR Congo in a friendly match just a couple of days before the rankings were released.

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