Teams discover their fate at draw for 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon

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Algeria will start the defence of their Africa Cup of Nations crown against Sierra Leone at the Japoma Stadium in Douala in January.

Djamel Belmadi's men discovered their fate during a lavish draw ceremony at the Yaounde Conference Centre on Tuesday night attended by a plethora of former star players and Patrice Motsepe, the head of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) which organises the tournament.

Equatorial Guinea will be Algeria's second opponents in Group E before they finish with a heavyweight clash against Cote d’Ivoire on 20 January.

Patrice Beaumelle, Cote d’Ivoire coach, said: “We’re going to go up against the defending champions - a giant of Africa - and two teams, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea who finished second in their qualifying group.

“I have a lot of respect for these teams," added the 43-year-old Frenchman.

Battle

"It's a tough group and Algeria are obviously the favourites. It will be a tough, hard-fought match against them with very different types of football. I can't wait.”

Hosts Cameroon will kick off the 33rd edition of Caf's most prestigious national team competition on 9 January against Burkina Faso at the new 60,000 seat Paul Biya Stadium just outside Yaounde.

Cameroon, who won the title in 2017, will play Ethiopia four days later and finish their Group A campaign against Cape Verde.

Senegal, beaten by Algeria 1-0 in the 2019 showdown at the Cairo International Stadium, will take on Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi in Group B at the Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam.

Tournament debutants Comoros, Morocco, Ghana and Gabon comprise Group C at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde while Nigeria and Egypt will be expected to progress from Group D which also contains Guinea-Bissau and Sudan who are making their first appearance since reaching the quarter-finals in 2012.

Kamal Hamid Ibrahim Shaddad, president of the Sudanese Football Federation, said: "Egypt and Nigeria are footballing powers. Guinea-Bissau is not a nation to be overlooked so we have a big challenge ahead of us. If we do a good preparation, we can be a surprise.

They will battle for supremacy in Group D at the Roumdé Adjia Stadium in Garoua.

Gambia, who are making their debut in the tournament, will play Tunisia, Mali and Mauritania in Group F at the Limbe Stadium in Limbe.

Change

Originally scheduled for June and July 2021, Caf said in January 2020 that it would be played in January and February of 2021.

But in June 2020, Caf moved the competition to January 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

As in the 2019 competition, the top two from each of the round robin pools will advance to the last 16 where they will be joined by the four best third-placed teams.

From there the tournament becomes a knockout competition. Ties will be decided by penalties if the score is level after 30 minutes of extra-time.

Though it is taking place in 2022, African football chiefs have opted to retain the 2021 logo during the month-long extravaganza which culminates in the final on 6 February at the Paul Biya Stadium.

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