The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon will face the Panthers of Gabon in their opening group game at January’s Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

This follows draws made this Friday in Luanda that also place Zambia and Tunisia in Cameroon’s pool D that will be based in Lubango.

“It is a group of high quality teams; we just played against Gabon and Tunisia will want to revenge after missing qualification to the World Cup,” former Indomitable Lion Patrick Mboma told BBC sports on Friday.

Cameroon line up against Togo

Indomitable Lions of Cameroon (pics credit Edouard Tamba)

Cameroon and Gabon will be meeting  for the third time within four months after the Lions beat the Panthers twice in September during the combined qualifiers for the 2010  World Cup in South Africa and the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Indomitable Lions played against the two other group members in the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. Cameroon beat Zambia 5-1 in the second game in the group phase and knocked-out Tunisia 3-2 in the quarter finals of the same tournament.

Patrick Mboma told the BBC that Cameroon would like to win the tournament and predicted that Ghana and Ivory Coast should also make it to the semi-final.

Put to him that the presence of Paul Le Guen would help Cameroon lift the trophy, the 2-time winner of the Nations Cup said: “the reality is that we cannot win all the games because we have Paul Le Guen on our bench.”

“We would like to win it, we have a new indomitable Lions team, a new coach and a new captain!” Mboma said.

Explosive West African Group

Although the draws have been described as balanced by most observers, there is likelihood that the all-West African pool “B” based in Cabinda may be explosive. It is made up of two teams qualified for the World Cup: Ivory Coast and Ghana who were at the semi-final of the last edition and actually faced each other in the 3rd place paly-off game.

Both nations have some of Africa’s biggest names in the game at the moment. Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure for the Ivory Coast and Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah for Ghana.

The two other members of the group are Togo who were present at the 2006 Nations Cup and have Emmanuel Adebayor as star player and Burkina Faso whose striker Moumouni Dagano was the best scorer in the combined qualifiers.

Holders and 6-times winners Egypt will play in Group “C” based in Benguela alongside the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the Squirrels of Benin and the Mambas of Mozambique. Nigeria and Mozambique were in the same qualification group and it was the Mambas victory over Tunisia that ushered the Nigerians to the World Cup.

In Luanda’s pool “A”, hosts Angola will play the opening game of the tournament against Mali before taking on the Flames of Malawi and the desert foxes (Fennecs) of Algeria who became the last African team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup on Wednesday.

All the teams have until  31 December 2009 to announce their squads.  It should be noted that most teams, especially those made of only professionals will not have time for preparatory games before the tournament . There is no FIFA National team period between now and the start of January when clubs will be constrained to allow their players join their national teams as per FIFA rules. Most teams are therefore expected to organise friendlies only in the immediate run-up to the competition.

Now its forecast time…Who are your favourites?