9 April 2015
Bafana Bafana have been drawn against Cameroon, Gambia and Mauritania in Group M of the 2017 Orange Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The tournament will be held in Gabon after a decision by the CAF Congress that saw the Central African country beat Ghana and Algeria to the vote to host the 31st Edition of CAF’s premier event. War-torn Libya was initially selected to host Afcon, but concerns over players and spectators’ safety pushed CAF to choose an alternative host.
Bafana Bafana were among 52 countries that went into the hat at the draw in Cairo on Wednesday. Only the group winner will progress to the Afcon finals, which will include the two best-placed runners-up and the host nation.
The first round of qualifying fixtures will take place from 8 to 16 June.
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba said he was happy with the draw, but warned that it would not be a walk in the park.
“Some may see this as a relatively easy group. On paper it is, but on the field it is a different story altogether. I have said before that there are no easy matches in international football anymore. Football has changed and every country will give it a go,” he said.
“While we may know much about Cameroon, not much is said about Gambia and Mauritania, and those could be our banana peels. We have to do what we did during the 2015 qualifiers – be brave, show no respect, but, above all, prepare thoroughly and take nothing for granted,” he added.
“I am very happy with the draw and closer to the time we will reveal our plans as to how we will tackle the qualifiers. We did well in the 2015 qualifiers but that is all in the past and the important thing is maintain the standard we set by qualifying outright.”
South Africa is ranked 55 on the Fifa World Rankings, Cameroon is 49 (10 on the continent), Mauritius is 190 (51 on the continent) and Gambia is 168 (46 on the continent).
Bafana Bafana will open their 2017 Afcon qualifying account against Gambia at home on the weekend of 12, 13, 14 June this year.
In the last qualifier, South Africa will host Mauritania on the weekend of 2, 3, 4 September 2016.
South Africa’s 2017 Afcon fixtures
- South Africa vs Gambia (12,13,14 June 2015)
- Mauritania vs South Africa (4, 5, 6 September 2015)
- Cameroon vs South Africa (23, 24, 25, 26 March 2016)
- South Africa vs Cameroon (26, 27, 28, 29 March 2016)
- Gambia vs South Africa (3, 4, 5 June 2016)
- South Africa vs Mauritania (2, 3, 4 September 2016)
Afcon 2017 – the full draw
Group A: Tunisia, Togo, Liberia, Djibouti
Group B: Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Madagascar
Group C: Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Group D: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Group E: Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Group F: Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Group G: Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Group H: Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Group I: Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Group K: Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi
Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Group M: Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia, Mauritania