Hosts Cameroon will play the opening match of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) against Egypt, following the outcome of draws in Yaounde on Sunday.
Placed by default in Group A, the opener is easily their toughest match in a group that includes South Africa and newcomers Zimbabwe.
A high-spirited public at the Yaounde Sports Complex nearly went mute, uttering sparring shouts of disappointment when Egypt was pooled in Group A.
Cameroon have lost two finals and hope to be powered by the home crowd to win their first continental trophy, the most prestigious in women’s football.
Nigeria, however, fell in perhaps toughest Group, which includes powerhouse Ghana and up and coming Mali. The title holders went straight to Group B, which also includes lowly seeded Kenya.
Prime Minister Philemon Yang sat in for President Paul Biya at the draws, which was conjoined with the official unveiling of Lili, the tournament mascot.
The president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Issa Hayatou attended the four-hour ceremony, the first time he has done so in the history of African football.
The ceremony was colourful, infused with dance and music, in what appeared to have been designed as a foretaste of the opening ceremony on 19 November.
“Cameroon had set the standard very high” and demonstrated that women’s football was as high-profile as men’s football, said CAF spokesman Junior Binyam.
Matches of the tournament will be played in Limbe and Yaounde, where sports venues have been built and refurbished.