Afcon 2025 qualifying draw throws up tasty ties

Reigning champions Ivory Coast will be confident of reaching the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Morocco but Nigeria have been handed a potentially tricky group in the qualifying draw.

The draw in Johannesburg saw the Super Eagles paired with Benin, Rwanda and Libya.

Benin, now coached by former Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr, beat their neighbours 2-1 last month when the teams met in qualifying for the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

Nigeria are seeking a new manager after Finidi George resigned as coach following that defeat and subsequently joined domestic side Rivers United – although the country’s football federation is yet to officially confirm his departure.

Ivory Coast, who won their third continental title in February when they beat Nigeria in the final of the delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), will face 2012 champions Zambia, Sierra Leone and Chad.

Elephants coach Emerse Fae helped to conduct the draw in Johannesburg and appeared content with the outcome.

“We played against Zambia for the last Afcon qualifying and we lost 3-0 away,” Fae told BBC Sport Africa.

“I know it will be a very difficult game but the fact we know them will help us to play against them and not make the same mistakes.”

Speaking to Caf TV after the draw, he added: “The most important [thing] for me is we don’t have long trips. It’s going to be good.”

The 48 competing teams have been split into 12 groups of four, with the top two in each group reaching the finals in Morocco.

The hosts are assured of a place at the tournament, so only one other team in their group, which includes Gabon, Central African Republic and Lesotho, will book a ticket to North Africa.

The qualifiers will take place across six match days in September, October and November this year.

“I prefer to play all the games in a short time,” Fae said.

“You have to be focused. To play each month is a good thing for us and we will have time to prepare for the competition if we qualify.”

The 2025 Afcon finals will then begin on 21 December next year, with the final on 18 January 2026.

The scheduling will see the 24-team finals overlap with the Premier League’s festive programme and take place between match rounds in the Uefa Champions League.

It will be the first time in Nations Cup history that the tournament will kick off in December and run over the Christmas and New Year period.

Afcon 2025 qualifying draw

Group A: Tunisia, Madagascar, Comoros, The Gambia.

Group B: Morocco, Gabon, Central African Republic, Lesotho.

Group C: Egypt, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Botswana.

Group D: Nigeria, Benin, Libya, Rwanda.

Group E: Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Liberia.

Group F: Ghana, Angola, Sudan, Niger.

Group G: Ivory Coast, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Chad.

Group H: DR Congo, Guinea, Tanzania, Ethiopia.

Group I: Mali, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Eswatini.

Group J: Cameroon, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe.

Group K: South Africa, Uganda, Congo, South Sudan.

Group L: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Burundi.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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