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 was taken by the CAF Congress currently sitting in Cairo that saw the Central African country beat Ghana and Algeria to the vote to host the 31st Edition of CAF’s premier event.
Bafana Bafana were among 52 countries that went into the hat in which only the group winner will progress to the AFCON finals which include two best-placed runners up and the host nation.
The first round of qualifying fixtures will take place from 8-16 June.
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba said he was happy with the draw but added 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,” said Mashaba reacting to the draw.
“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 currently ranked in 55th position on the FIFA World Rankings, Cameroon is 49th (10th on the continent), Mauritius is 190th (51th on the continent) and Gambia is 168th (46th 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
HERE IS THE FULL DRAW:
Tunisia, Togo, Liberia, Djibouti
Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Madagascar
Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi
Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia, Mauritania