Recently appointed Senegal coach and former captain Aliou Cisse says 'favourites' in football matches are a figment of journalists' imaginations.
"Favourites belong in newspapers," he said, scornfully dismissing the popular term as he announced a squad to play Burundi in Dakar.
Algeria at home to the Seychelles is another fixture that has a home victory and a glut of goals written all over it. 166 places divide them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and while Algeria are regular Cup of Nations tournament participants, Seychelles have never come close to qualifying. Seychelles coach Ulrich Mathiot admits his team are likely to defend with ten men for most of the match in Blida, south of Algiers.
"We have no choice," he conceded. "All-out attack would be suicidal against Algeria, a great team with great individual footballers."
Seychelles have been a little more successful than Djibouti when it comes to containing powerful opponents with five-goal losses in Zimbabwe and Tunisia the worst defeats. Ghana, runners-up to the Ivory Coast in the 2015 Cup of Nations last February, and three-time champions Nigeria are other countries facing countries ranked far lower.
Mauritius go to Accra with goalkeeper Kevin Jean-Louis in excellent form, but there is no evidence to suggest they can bridge a 142-place gap in the rankings. Arch-predator Asamoah Gyan has recovered from injury to lead the Ghana attack, although injured creator Andre Ayew misses out.
There is considerable excitement among Ghanaians over Bernard Mensah, a 20-year-old midfielder with a venomous shot who plays in Portugal. Nigeria have been on a Cup of Nations roller-coaster, eliminating favourites Côte d'Ivoire en route to lifting the trophy in 2013, but failing to qualify for the tournament this year. Stephen Keshi is back in charge and respects Chad, who lie 129 places lower in the world.
"Football in Africa today is dynamic and we have to respect all teams and prepare well," stressed the coach affectionately called 'Big Boss'.
Keshi has dismissed reports that he axed John Obi Mikel, insisting the Chelsea midfielder is being "rested". Record seven-time African champions Egypt, the other notable absentees from the 2015 finals in Equatorial Guinea, are in the same group as Nigeria and host Tanzania near Alexandria.
New Argentina-born coach Hector Cuper insists he will not underestimate the east Africans, whose build-up included losses to Swaziland, Madagascar, Lesotho and Rwanda.
"I respect all our opponents equally and my aim is book the automatic place for the finals," said the handler who took Valencia to two unsuccessful Champions League finals appearances.
South Africa, winless 2015 Africa Cup flops, tackle Gambia in Durban with coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba warning that the west Africans could prove a "banana skin". Burkina Faso, four-time title-holders Cameroon and shock 2012 champions Zambia are other countries with sad memories of Equatorial Guinea as they propped up standings.
All start with home games and should collect maximum points as Burkina Faso play the Comoros Islands, Cameroon meet Mauritania and Zambia face Guinea-Bissau. Congo DR, the surprise 2015 bronze medalists, start in Kinshasa against Madagascar, a side boasting a prolific scorer in Sarivahy Vombola but a suspect defence. Reigning champions Côte d'Ivoire have a bye in the only three-team group and visit automatic qualifiers Gabon for a friendly minus injured talisman and record four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure.