African football legends and internationals have reacted to the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group draws ahead of next year’s tournament Cote d’Ivoire 2023, which was held in Abidjan on Thursday 12 October.
“It is a very difficult group. Nigeria is of course one of the favourites and to have them in our group, it is going to be an exciting challenge,” Didier Drogba, Ivorian legend said reacting to the draws.
Drogba, Cote d’Ivoire’s all-time leading scorer said playing the Super Eagles promises to be a thrilling early test for the tournament hosts next January.
The two-time AFCON winners will face the three-time champions Nigeria in Group A, alongside Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. “But we are up for it. This is the beauty of a competition like AFCON, so we are ready to take on the challenge and let the best teams of this group and all the groups qualify,” Drogba said.
Geremi Njitap, another legend of the game from Cameroon cautioned current national team coach and former teammate, Rigobert Song, against focusing all their energies on the fixture against the reigning champions.
“For us Cameroon, our first match is against Gambia so the manager should be working on that, then we move on to the next match. This is something I am saying from experience. So, Rigobert Song should start working on the game against Gambia,” he said.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have been crowned African champions a record five times, with their last gold achievement being in 2017 in Gabon. However, a lot will be expected of the former champions, who always compete against one of the sides to look out for.
But, Njitap said, “I wouldn’t call it the group of death because when you look at all the groups, they are all tough but of course, people will be looking at Senegal and Cameroon. As a former player with lots of experience, when you go to this kind of competition, the key is the first match”.
Cameroon was drawn against reigning champions Senegal, Guinea and The Gambia in Group C of the AFCON.
However, Senegal’s talisman and forward Sadio Mane said playing Cameroon will be very tough.
“It’s a really difficult group,” said Senegal forward Sadio Mane, who helped conduct the draw. Cameroon is going to be really tough, but we will give our best to go through from the first round,” said Mane who helped conduct the draw in Abidjan.
Both Senegal and Cameroon will clash in a friendly in France on Monday as part of preparations ahead of next year’s AFCON.
Mane led Senegal to a first-ever AFCON title in Cameroon last year, triumphing on penalties against Egypt.
They will attempt to defend their crown at the 24-team finals in Cote d’Ivoire.
Morocco star Achraf Hakimi said his side will “try our best to win” the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Côte d’Ivoire 2023 after being handed a favourable group stage draw on Thursday.
The World Cup semi-finalists were drawn against DR Congo, Tanzania and Zambia in Group F, representing a smoother path to the knock-out phase.
Hakimi, part of the Atlas Lions squad that made history in Qatar, is targeting triumph when Morocco chase just their second AFCON title in Cote d’Ivoire.
“We have a good team, a good group and we will do our best to win,” said the Paris St-Germain full-back after conducting the draw in Abidjan.
“We will try to do our best during this AFCON, similar to what we did in the World Cup,” Hakimi said.
The draw was held three months before the continent’s showpiece event gets underway on 13 January until 11 February 2023.
Six venues across Ivory Coast will host matches, including two stadia in Abidjan along with newly constructed venues in Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro and Yamoussoukro.
The top two in each of the six groups will progress along with the best four third-placed teams.
The final will take place at Abidjan’s 65,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium on 11 February as the new African champions are crowned.