Host nation Egypt was handed a favourable draw for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals on Friday, April 12th, but continental powerhouses Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa were placed together in a tough group, as reported by Reuters.
The draw for the expanded 24-team tournament, which runs from June 21st to July 19th, was staged against the spectacular backdrop of the Sphinx and pyramids on the Giza plateau in Cairo.
Players from different nations were split-over, but mostly welcoming the summer season change of timing of the tournament.
Egypt will take on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Group A, opening their campaign against the latter at the Cairo International Stadium.
The top two teams in each of the six groups advance to the second round, along with the four best third-placed sides.
Former Ivory Coast and Manchester City midfielder, Yayá Touré said the change may be difficult for players who are arriving from different seasons.
Group D features Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Namibia, and they should be keenly contested matches between the first three sides.
It once again pits Morocco coach Hervé Renard against the Ivorians with whom he lifted the trophy in 2015.
The teams also met in Gabon two years ago, where Morocco beat the West Africans in their final group match to progress to the knockouts at their opponents' expense.
Nigeria take on Guinea in Group B, as well as first-time qualifiers Madagascar and Burundi, and the Super Eagles will be heavy favourites to finish top.
Kenya are back in the finals for the first time in 15 years, while Tanzania last appeared in 1980, and both of these sides will do well to advance from Group C, which also includes Senegal and Algeria.
Tunisia and Mali look to be favourites in Group E, which includes Mauritania, another first-time qualifier, as well as Angola.
Group F is harder to call with holders Cameroon drawn alongside Ghana, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
Egypt stepped in as 2019 hosts after Cameroon was stripped of the right to hold the event in late November over concerns at the slow pace of their preparations.
The North African nation is also the most successful in Cup of Nations history having won seven titles in the past.
The shift of dates for the tournament to the European summer will alleviate the club-versus-country battles that have marred previous episodes.