European clubs are set to have a significant influence on which countries perform best at the first African under-23 championship and qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
South Africa also battle to get young stars from domestic clubs with coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba taking only two of his first-choice team to the All-Africa Games in Mozambique this month where they finished runners-up behind Ghana.
The championship draw made in Cairo Saturday suggests Egypt, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Morocco will fight for three automatic Olympics places while the fourth-place finisher goes into a London play-off against an Asian country.
Egypt, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Gabon comprise Group A and Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Senegal Group B. The Gabonese and Senegalese are the only nations not to have represented Africa in football at the quadrennial multi-sport spectacle.
Former Olympic champions Cameroon and bronze medallists Ghana were shock casualties of a three-round elimination process that reduced the field to eight countries while Gabon are the most unexpected qualifiers.
Egypt, Gabon, South Africa, Ivory Coast
Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal
Source: AFP Global Edition