2017 Africa Cup of Nations: Full Group-Stage Draw, Fixtures and Dates Released

Matt Jones@@MattJFootballFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2016

Ivory Coast's midfielder Yaya Toure (C) raises the trophy at the end of the 2015 African Cup of Nations final football match between Ivory Coast and Ghana in Bata on February 8, 2015. Ivory Coast won 9 to 8 on penalties.  AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI        (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
KHALED DESOUKI/Getty Images

Holders Ivory Coast will face former manager Herve Renard in the group stages of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, which were drawn on Wednesday.

Renard, now in charge of Morocco, led Ivory Coast to glory two years ago, ending the nation's 23-year wait for a second AFCON title. The champions will also face DR Congo and Togo in Group C.

The Elephants triumphed against Ghana in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 after a thrilling penalty shootout. Michel Dussuyer’s side are among the big favourites for victory again in Gabon, although competition will be fierce. 

Here’s a look at the draw in full, courtesy of the CAF Twitter feed:

Below are the opening group-stage fixtures, while the schedule in full can be found on the CAF website:

AFCON 2017: Group Stage Fixtures
DateTime (GMT)GroupFixture
January 145 p.m.AGabon vs. Guinea-Bissau
January 148 p.m.ABurkina Faso vs. Cameroon
January 155 p.m.BAlgeria vs. Zimbabwe
January 158 p.m.BTunisia vs. Senegal
January 165 p.m.CIvory Coast vs. Togo
January 168 p.m.CDR Congo vs. Morocco
January 175 p.m.DGhana vs. Uganda
January 178 p.m.DMali vs. Egypt
cafonline.com

Given the tournament will run during January and February, it means key players from various European clubs will miss sections of the domestic season.

Bleacher Report UK broke down the stars who will be absent from the Premier League as they get set to take part:

Host nation Gabon will feel as though they have a decent draw overall and will be confident of progressing beyond the group stage. Cameroon, Burkina Faso and debutant Guinea-Bissau will join them in Group A.

While there is excitement ahead of the competition, there are doubts over whether or not the tournament will be staged in Gabon at all.

As reported by Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian, there has been major unrest in the country since president Ali Bongo was re-elected by a narrow margin, with allegations of ballot tampering fuelling discontent. There have been attacks on the parliament building and national television network by supporters of the opposition.

Should the event go ahead as planned, all eyes will be on Gabon’s star man, Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to produce.

Per Squawka Football, he’s been in superb goalscoring form:

Elsewhere, Group B will be competitive, as Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Zimbabwe will all scrap for a spot in the knockout stages.

Algeria boast a lot of attacking talent.
Algeria boast a lot of attacking talent.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Algeria, in particular, have made strong progress as of late and will head into the competition boasting arguably the finest attacking options of any side. Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez have been linking up well at Leicester City, while the likes of Yacine Brahimi, Sofiane Feghouli and Rachid Ghezzal are also big threats.

Senegal will also be one of the favourites for the title and have plenty of attacking thrust of their own. However, their most valuable asset is arguably Everton midfield man Idrissa Gueye; the team’s official Twitter feed made note of his excellent start to the season:

Ivory Coast should have enough to emerge from Group C, although their long-standing star man Yaya Toure announced his decision to retire from the international game last month. The champions will be hoping young stars can emerge to take over from the ageing golden generation.

Group D sees the 2015 runners-up Ghana pitted against Uganda, Egypt and Mali. Having come so close a couple of years ago, manager Avram Grant will feel his Black Stars side are ready to end what will be a 35-year wait for silverware once the competition kicks off.  

Related

    Neymar Locked in a Golden Prison—Verratti's Old Agent

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Neymar Locked in a Golden Prison—Verratti's Old Agent

    Tom Sunderland
    via Bleacher Report

    'Ligue 1 Is a Puppet League'

    World Football logo
    World Football

    'Ligue 1 Is a Puppet League'

    As.com
    via AS.com

    Alexis' Lonely Last Days at Arsenal

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Alexis' Lonely Last Days at Arsenal

    Dean Jones
    via Bleacher Report

    Real Madrid Snatch Late Victory in Copa

    World Football logo
    World Football

    Real Madrid Snatch Late Victory in Copa

    Tom Sunderland
    via Bleacher Report