Gabon will host next Africa Cup of Nations and draw is made

(CONFEDERATION OF AFRICAN FOOTBALL, 2017 TOURNAMENT) – Gabon was named on Wednesday (April 8) as the host of the next African Cup of Nations finals in 2017.

The Gabonese beat rival bids from Algeria and Ghana in a vote by the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) executive committee at a meeting in Cairo.

Gabon replaces war-torn Libya, which withdrew last year as 2017 host because of the civil conflict raging in the country.

It will be the second time that Gabon will stage the finals after co-hosting the 2012 edition with neighbours Equatorial Guinea.

Gabon will use four venues for the 16-team tournament, set for January 2017: Libreville and Franceville, which were used in 2012; plus Port Gentil and Oyem, where the stadiums will be ready in 14 months, Gabon Football Federation officials said.

All three candidate countries made presentations to the CAF executive committee on Wednesday before the ballot was taken.

Details of the voting were not immediately available.

CAF has already designated the hosts of the 2019 (Cameroon), 2021 (Ivory Coast) and 2023 finals (Guinea).

Egypt, champion a record seven times, was drawn in the same group as fellow heavyweights Nigeria for the 2017 tournament.

The two will battle for a single berth from Group G for the finals in Gabon.

The Egyptians, whose seven titles include winning three in a row from 2006 to 2010, have not qualified for the past three tournaments.

Egypt and three-times champions Nigeria meet each other in back-to-back games in March.

There will also be a tough battle in Group M, where Cameroon and South Africa were paired together.

Holders Ivory Coast will play in Group I against Sierra Leone, Sudan and Gabon, who have already secured a place in the finals as hosts but still compete in the qualifiers.

Ghana, which lost to the Ivorians in a dramatic penalty shootout in the 2015 final in Bata in February, was placed in Group H with modest opposition in the form of Mauritius, Mozambique and Rwanda.

A record total of 52 countries entered the preliminaries. Only Eritrea and Somalia are absent.

Zimbabwe, which was banned from competing in the 2018 World Cup preliminaries, is entered for the Nations Cup and competes in Group L with Guinea, Malawi and Swaziland.

The draw for the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers conducted in Cairo on Thursday:

Group A: Djibouti, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia

Group B: Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar

Group C: Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, South Sudan

Group D: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Comoros Islands, Uganda

Group E: Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Zambia

Group F: Cape Verde Islands, Libya, Morocco, Sao Tome e Principe

Group G: Chad, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania

Group H: Ghana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda

Group I: Gabon (hosts)*, Ivory Coast (holders), Sierra Leone, Sudan

Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles

Group K: Burundi, Namibia, Niger, Senegal

Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe

Group M: Cameroon, Gambia, Mauritania, South Africa

The winner of each group will qualify along with the two best second placed finishers.

* Hosts Gabon qualify automatically but will compete in Group I.

Qualifying starts on the weekend of June 12-14.