Two nations that are among the favorites to win the African continental championship will be tested by their first-round groups. Ghana plays Mali, Guinea and Botswana in Group D, and Ivory Coast has been placed with Burkina Faso, Sudan and Angola in Group B.
With three-time defending champion Egypt not present, and other traditional powers such as Nigeria also left out, the Black Stars and Elephants will be the top choices to win a competition being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. "Group D is a very well-balanced group but we are the favorites," former Ghana international defender Tony Baffoe told BBC Sport.
In Group C Morocco will face Tunisia, Niger and Gabon. Group A contains Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Libya and Zambia.
Tunisia beat Morocco in the 2004 final and is the only winner from the last eight Nations Cup tournaments to qualify for 2012. The failure of Egypt to qualify is one reason the nation's soccer federation chose to hire former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley last month. Libya, which qualified despite intense political turmoil that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, plays Equatorial Guinea in the tournament opener Jan. 21.