Ghana coach Chris Hughton has called for full concentration from his side at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cote d’Ivoire 2023, after being pitted against seven-time winners Egypt in the group stage.
The Black Stars were placed in Group B at Thursday’s draw in Abidjan along with Egypt, Cape Verde and Mozambique.
It means Ghana will face one of the tournament favourites and 2021 losing finalists Egypt in their second match on 17 January.
And while identifying the Pharaohs as a major threat, Hughton insists his side cannot afford to look beyond their opening test against Cape Verde.
“Egypt are a very experienced side, very experienced AFCON campaigners and I think they have more wins than any other country,” Hughton said.
“For sure, they are very tough opposition. But of course it is a competition and we are looking forward to playing one of the best teams on the continent.”
Hughton was keen to stress Ghana must treat every opponent with equal respect in a traditionally unpredictable tournament.
“Cape Verde and Mozambique are two teams I don’t know so much about. However, we will do our homework over the coming months and watch their games before the tournament starts,” he added.
The manager said debates over the difficulty of the draw were pointless, an element of chance always being involved.
“Whenever a group comes out, you always think it could have been better or worse for us,” Hughton admitted.
The 64-year-old insisted past failures would not weigh heavy and the focus was on producing improved displays in Cote d’Ivoire.
“There is no pressure relating to the past. The pressure is we want to do the best we can after the last disappointing campaign,” he continued.
Ghana suffered a shock early exit last year, failing to qualify from their group containing Morocco, Gabon and debutants Comoros.
It extended their AFCON trophy drought to 40 years since last lifting the title in 1982.
But Hughton highlighted the need to concentrate solely on safely navigating the first round in order to give themselves a foothold in the competition.
“We know it was disappointing in the last campaign but that’s in the past. We must prepare ourselves the best way we can to come out of the group,” he outlined.
The 24-team finals take place across six venues in host nation Cote d’Ivoire, including newly built stadiums in Bouake, Korhogo and San Pedro.
The top two in each group and best four third-placed teams will progress to the knockout phase.
Ghana and Hughton know focus and consistency will be required right from their opening match if they are to avoid another early flight home.