By Fred Kaweesi
When the Confederation of African Football (CAF) meets in Cairo to decide the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) draw, Cranes’ technical staff will pray for two things.
That apart from hoping to avoid North African opposition, the draw of the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in domestic leagues, should also steer them clear of hosts South Africa.
The Cranes are of course still aware of their disastrous outing in the previous edition, during which hosts Sudan and North African giants Algeria conspired with Gabon to deny them a single win in Group B.
And in the last four months under Micho Sredojevic, the Cranes have not fared any better against North African opposition. In June, Cranes lost 3-0 to Libya in an international friendly before collapsing to Egypt by the same result in August.
The only positive from the two North African countries, Morocco and Libya, that will be among the pots is that Cranes at least beat Morocco 1-0 in an LG Cup tournament in 2011.
The 15 qualified teams and hosts South Africa will be placed into four groups of four teams to vie for honours in the third edition of the tournament that takes places from January 11to February 1, 2014.
Aside from South Africa, others in the draw are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Libya, Mali, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The top seeds will be decided by previous performances and number of appearances in the CHAN tournament. Inaugural CHAN winners DR Congo have the highest points, 14 from their previous participation, Ghana have eight and Zimbawe are third with six points. South Africa will complete the group seeds by virtue of being the hosts.
CAF’s decision to make Zimbabwe seeds means they will play their matches at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane while hosts South Africa and second seeds DRC will be based in Cape Town and the Black Stars in Bloemfontein.
The remaining 12 teams will be categorised into three pots (Pot 2, Pot 3, Pot 4) based on their results in the first two editions of the CHAN tournament and their zones.