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Africa Cup of Nations prepares for take-off Saturday

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Hosts South Africa kick off the 29th Africa Cup of Nations against tournament debutants Cape Verde. Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund rotated his players in recent friendlies to make it difficult to predict his starting line-up. Neither side has any injury problems, as South Africa’s Kagisho Digacoi has recovered from a knee problem.

Cape Verde are without three of their most experienced players, Lito, Dady and Ricardo, in their squad.

The group of islands, with a population of just over 500,000 are ranked higher than their opponents in the Fifa world rankings (69 compared to 87). Their three goalkeepers play in Africa but all of their outfield players play in European leagues.

South Africa coach Gordon Igesund:

“We’re well prepared and ready for this tournament. The players, when they play in front of 90,000 people, they’re very excited about that. “The guys are all fighting now and ready for this. We’ve got information on all the Cape Verde players and we’re aware of them.

“Our mindset has always been very positive. The players around me are very positive.”

Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes:

“The pressure will be on South Africa. We are here, we are happy to be here. There is no pressure to play good football.

“We qualified for this tournament. It’s totally different for Bafana Bafana because they are the host country and the fans will put pressure on them. They are a big team, there are expectations on them.

“We have worked very hard to be here. We don’t have any top players in our team, we play as a team. We work hard, the players are determined to write history.”

Africa Cup of Nations groups

Group A
Angola, Cape Verde Islands, Morocco, South Africa.

Group B
DR Congo, Ghana, Mali, Niger.

Group C
Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia.

Group D
Algeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Tunisia.

Fixtures

Saturday 19 January
South Africa v Cape Verde Islands; Angola v Morocco

Sunday 20 January
Ghana v Congo DR; Mali v Niger

Monday 21 January
Zambia v Ethiopia; Nigeria v Burkina Faso

Tuesday 22 January
Ivory Coast v Togo; Tunisia v Algeria

Wednesday 23 January
South Africa v Angola; Morocco v Cape Verde Islands

Thursday 24 January
Ghana v Mali; Niger v DR Congo

Friday 25 January
Zambia v Nigeria; Burkina Faso v Ethiopia

Saturday 26 January
Ivory Coast v Tunisia; Algeria v Togo

Sunday 27 January
Cape Verde Islands v Angola; Morocco v South Africa

Monday 28 January
DR Congo v Mali; Niger v Ghana

Tuesday 29 January
Burkina Faso v Zambia; Ethiopia v Nigeria

Wednesday 30 January
Algeria v Ivory Coast; Togo v Tunisia

Saturday 2 February
Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A; Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B

Sunday 3 February
Winner Group D v Runner-up Group C; Winner Group C v Runner-up Group D

Wednesday 6 February
Winner QF 3 v Winner QF 2; Winner QF1 v Winner QF4

Saturday 9 February
Loser SF1 v Loser SF2

Sunday 10 February
Winner SF1 v Winner SF2

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