African Women's hosts Namibia to face Nigeria in Group A
The hosts of the 2014 African Women's Championship, Namibia, are pitted in Group A alongside six-time winners Nigeria, fellow debutants Zambia and Ivory Coast as the draw for the tournament was held in the Namibian capital of Windhoek on Saturday.
Three-time runners-up South Africa, comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea in the final back in 2012, have a tough draw.
They will be in Group B alongside Cameroon, Ghana and Algeria.
The championship is scheduled for 11-25 October 2014 in two stadiums in Windhoek. It will also serve as qualification for the Fifa Women's World Cup to be held in Canada from 6 June to 5 July, 2015.
The top three nations from the two-week long event, which kicks off on 11 October, will represent Africa in Canada.
The inexperienced Brave Gladiators of Namibia have been handed a relatively weak group and they will be counting on home support to help them navigate their route out of group A.
Officials have already suspended the Namibian women's league this year; local media reports suggest money meant for the league has been swiftly diverted to stage the biennial championship.
Continental powerhouse Nigeria's Super Falcons will be seeking redemption in Windhoek after they embarrassingly finished fourth in the last edition, their worst-ever finish in the history of African Women Championship.
The most successful team in the competition, with six titles, Nigeria last won the trophy in 2010, when they beat Equatorial Guinea 4-2.
The Super Falcons are expected to safely fly out of the group consisting of apparent lightweights in debutants Zambia and Namibia.
Ivory Coast, who crashed out in the first round at their maiden appearance in 2012, will draw inspiration from their emphatic qualification as they aim to reach the semi-finals.
The West Africans defied the odds by edging out defending champions Equatorial Guinea in dramatic style.
After managing a 1-1 draw at home in the first-leg, they forced the two-time champions to a 2-2 draw away, to book a place in Namibia on away goals rule after the tie ended 3-3 on aggregate.
Perennial underachievers, the Black Queens of Ghana, will be hoping to make a bold statement on their return to the championship.
Three-time runners up, third place winners twice, Ghana failed to come out of their group in 2008 and 2010 then failed to qualify for the 2012 tournament to seal a disappointing slump.
They may have avoided their biggest rivals Nigeria, but they have been drawn alongside experienced campaigners Banyana Banyana of South Africa and the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon.
South Africa are still looking for their first trophy after finishing runner-up thrice, but coach Vera Pauw is delighted with the draw.
"I am happy with the draw. I could not have asked for a better outcome. If you want to be a champion, you must be prepared to slug it out against the best," she said.
Ever-present Cameroon, they have never missed an edition since 1998, are desperate to claw their way to Canada according to coach Enow Ngachu.
He said: "We will fight and give our best."
Pitched against heavyweights, spare a though for North Africans and makeweights Algeria. In three previous appearances they failed to survive the group stage.