The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations draw is eagerly awaited by football fans across the continent. The draw for the tournament to be hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will take place in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea on Saturday 29th October at 7.00pm

All roads lead to Malabo for the ceremony where the two Heads of State of the co hosting nations presidents Ali Bongo Ondimba and his counterpart Teodoro Obiang Nguema will be among the dignitaries gracing the draw.

Defending Champions Egypt will be absent from the draw as the 16 qualified nations wait to find out who they will play in the race to succeed Egypt the 7 time African Champions at next year ‘s event.

A new dawn has come for the Orange Africa Football competition with only five former champions having made the finals this time round. That is a number less than the previous edition in Angola in 2010. Ghana has the most number of titles, 4 in total but they last won the title in 1982 in Tripoli when they defeated Libya 7-6 on penalties. That was the competition that marked the start of the career of Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele whose son Andre Ayew currently plays for Olympique Marseille and should be present at next year’s finals with The Blacks Stars of Ghana.

Ten years later in 1992 in Senegal, Ivory Coast won its only title at the detriment of rivals Ghana following a memorable post match penalty shoot-out (11-10). Ivorian goalkeeper Alain Gouamene was the hero of the day and Abedi Pele the big absentee on the day after he was suspended from the final after receiving a second yellow card during the semi final win over Nigeria. In 2004 Tunisia beat Morocco 2-1 in the final.

Several former finalists Ghana (4 times), Tunisia (twice), Zambia (twice), Mali (once), Morocco (Once) and Senegal (Once) will be present for the bi annual African soccer show piece. Added to this is Guinea, runners up in 1976. Three countries will be playing their first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals namely co hosts Equatorial Guinea, Niger ( who emerged from a group that had Egypt and South Africa) and Botswana the surprise package from group K, the only group that had five teams.

So who gets who and will there be a group of death , are the co-hosts going to get a draw that can take them beyond the first round? Plenty of questions for now and few answers. What is known at present however is that the 16 teams will be drafted according to their results in the last three ACN finals in 2006, 2008 and 2010) and will be placed as follows :
– Pot 1 : Ghana, Ivory Coast + Gabon and Equatorial Guinea
– Pot 2 : Angola, Tunisia, Zambia, Guinea
– Pot 3 : Mali, Senegal, Morocco, Burkina Faso
– Pot 4 : Sudan, Libya, Botswana, Niger

There will be in each group, one of the teams from each pot , so a possible group could have a combination like Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Senegal and Niger or Ghana, Zambia, Morocco and Botswana. There is also the possibility of having three North African sides Libya, Morocco and Tunisia in the same group.

Whatever the outcome the qualifiers revealed a new trend in African football built on hard work that has shaken the established order. Ivory Coast showed that they are a team to watch by winning all their qualifying matches and Senegal too have been strong. Ghana quarter finalist at last year’s World Cup and losing finalist at in Angola 2010 will be hoping to go one better this time around. It all begins in earnest on Saturday in Malabo with the draw .