Hosts Ghana fared better than holders Egypt when the 2008 African Nations Cup draw was made Friday.
Ghana are in Group A with poor travellers Morocco, unpredictable Guinea and minnows Namibia and a team powered by midfielders Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah look set for a top-two finish and a quarter-finals slot.
Egypt, winners of the biennial competition a record five times, are in Group C with mighty Cameroon, revitalised Zambia and dark horses Sudan, back at the Nations Cup after a 32-year absence.
Every major football tournament delivers one fearsome group and in Ghana it will be Group B where giants Nigeria and Ivory Coast will not relish tackling fellow west Africans Mali and Benin.
Intrigue envelopes Group D with nothing to choose between former champions Tunisia and South Africa, one-time runners-up Senegal and shock 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers Angola.
The tournament kicks off on 20 January with a clash between Ghana and Guinea in Accra that will offer the hosts and four-time African champions a realistic chance to make a winning start.
After a three-match programme the following day, the tournament will settle into a two-games-a-day schedule until the completion of the mini-league phase on 31 January.
The quarter-finals are scheduled for 3 and 4 February and the semi-finals for 7 February ahead of the February 10 finale with many observers predicting a west African showdown between Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Matches will be staged in the capital, Accra, and another coastal venue, Sekondi, plus the central city of Kumasi and the northern town of Tamale as Ghana play host to the Nations Cup a fourth time.
Former Ghana stars Abedi 'Pele' Ayew and Tony Baffoe and Ghana-born Michel Desailly, a member of the France 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, helped African Football Confederation secretary-general Mustapha Fahmy make the draw.
Group A (Accra)
Group B (Sekondi)
Group C (Kumasi)
Group D (Tamale)