Johannesburg (AFP) – Nigerian challengers Enyimba and Enugu Rangers were given tough tasks when the CAF Confederation Cup group draw was made in Cairo Tuesday.
Enyimba must secure a top-two finish in Group D, where they will meet San Pedro of the Ivory Coast, Hassania Agadir of Morocco and Paradou of Algeria, to reach the quarter-finals.
Enugu face an even more difficult mission as they share Group A with formidable Egyptian sides Al Masry and Pyramids plus outsiders Nouadhibou of Mauritania.
South African outfit Bidvest Wits were placed in Group B with Horoya of Guinea, Djoliba of Mali and Al Nasr of Libya, whose home matches will be staged in Egypt for security reasons.
Zambian club Zanaco will come up against Renaissance Berkane of Morocco, Daring Club Motema Pembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and surprise qualifiers ESAE of Benin in Group C.
Group winners and runners-up advance to the quarter-finals of the second-tier African club competition, which is partly modelled on the UEFA Europa League.
The 16 survivors from three elimination rounds are guaranteed $275,000 (250,000 euros) while the winners of the final next May pocket $1.25 million.
Like most Nigerian clubs who participate in CAF competitions, Enyimba often struggle against rivals from north Africa, and Agadir and Paradou deserve respect.
Hassania are a combative outfit who got to the quarter-finals last season before losing 1-0 on aggregate to eventual winners Zamalek of Egypt.
CAF debutants Paradou shocked record three-time Confederation Cup trophy-holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia in a last-32 tie, building a 3-1 lead at home before forcing a 0-0 away stalemate.
– Achieved success –
They achieved success without Hicham Boudaoui, the only home-based player in the Algeria 2019 Africa Cup of Nations-winning squad, who moved to French outfit Nice in mid-year.
Enugu, whose lone CAF title came 42 years ago when they lifted the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup, did not impress in reaching the group phase, losing twice in four outings.
They edged modest Pelican of Gabon before needing the away-goal rule to squeeze past Kara of Togo with Chinonso Eziekwe scoring the crucial second-leg goal in Nigeria.
Expensively assembled Pyramids won five of six eliminators and drew the other and French coach Sebastien Desabre can call on stars from Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tunisia and Uganda.
Although the Cairo club are not among the eight seeded sides, they look capable of not only topping Group A but going on to win the competition at the first attempt.
Former semi-finalists Masry dealt mercilessly with weak opponents from Zanzibar and the Seychelles in previous rounds, scoring 13 goals with Palestinian Mahmoud Wadi claiming four.
Experienced African campaigners Horoya should win Group B, leaving Wits, Nasr and 2012 runners-up Djoliba to battle for second spot.
Horoya named Senegalese Lamine Ndiaye as their new coach Tuesday after sacking Portuguese Didier Gomes da Rosa for failing to make the CAF Champions League group phase this season.
Nouadhibou, Nasr and Enyimba are other three drop-outs from the elite African club competition who won Confederation Cup play-offs to seal group places.
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