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Ghana’s Afcon tough call

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MALABO — Ghana have been handed a fairly difficult draw for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations with West African rivals Mali and Guinea in Group D alongside Botswana.

With champions Egypt and some of Africa’s other major powers failing to qualify, the tournament also sees former World Cup qualifiers Angola paired with Ivory Coast, Sudan and Burkina Faso in Group B.

Morocco and Tunisia clash in Group C, with debutants Niger who qualified at the expense of South Africa, and Gabon; while hosts Equatorial Guinea will play the newly liberated Libya, along with Senegal and Zambia.

Libya, who qualified in fairytale fashion for the 2012 African Nations Cup finals, were drawn on Saturday to play in the tournament’s opening game.

They meet co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in Group A in Bata on January 21 to launch the three-week event and will have a reasonable chance of making the second round.

Libya finished second in their qualifying section and went through to the finals as one of the best runners-up.

The draw also brought together North African rivals Morocco and Tunisia in Group C alongside co-hosts Gabon and Niger.

Tunisia beat Morocco in the 2004 final and are the only winners from the last eight Nations Cup tournaments to qualify for the 2012 event.

Ivory Coast are the top seeds in Group B where they again meet Burkina Faso who shared the same opening-round section at the last edition in Angola in 2010. Group D top seeds Ghana were drawn alongside west African rivals Guinea and Mali plus newcomers Botswana.

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso can play in next year’s African Nations (Afcon) Cup finals after a protest about the use of an ineligible player was thrown out, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Saturday.

Namibia protested that Burkina Faso’s use of Cameroon-born defender Hervé Zengue in two qualifying matches contravened the rules of world soccer’s governing body Fifa.

The Namibians said Zengue, who plays his club football in Russia, did not qualify to play for Burkina Faso because he was not born there, had no blood ties with the country and had never lived there. Caf’s executive committee, meeting in Equatorial Guinea before Saturday’s African Nations Cup draw, said in a statement they had dismissed the protest.

Burkina Faso said they had given Zengue a passport because he was married to a Burkinabe woman.

The finals are being co-hosted in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from January 21 to February 14.

African Nations Cup draw

Group A: Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Senegal, Zambia

Group B: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Angola

Group C: Gabon, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia

Group D: Ghana, Botswana, Mali, Guinea

The tournament is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from January 21 to February 12. —Soccernet

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