"Facing Angola in the opening matches of the tournament will decide the fate of which team will top the group," he said.
Group D brings old acquaintances face to face in a deadly struggle.
French coach Herve Renard guided the Ivory Coast to a long-sought title in 2015 - 23 years after they first conquered Africa - and then switched to Morocco.
The countries clashed at the last Cup of Nations in Gabon with the Moroccans winning 1-0 to advance from the group stage and eliminate the Ivorians.
Charismatic Renard is the only coach to have won the competition with different countries as he guided outsiders Zambia to the 2012 title.
South Africa are unpredictable - they began the qualifying campaign with a stunning 2-0 win in Nigeria but could only draw at home to Libya the next time they played.
A greater embarrassment for Bafana Bafana (The Boys) came when they were held 0-0 away by a Seychelles team of part-timers, including a hotel pastry chef.
Apart from Morocco, the other five top seeds will be confident of making the round-of-16, the first of four knockout stages.
Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt should win Group A, leaving DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe to scrap for one or two places.
Nigeria look superior in Group B to Guinea and two debutants, Madagascar and Burundi, while Senegal and Algeria should advance from Group C at the expense of Kenya and Tanzania.
Tunisia and Mali will be the favoured sides in Group E while Mauritania and Angola resume a rivalry from the qualifiers where both teams won at home.
It would be a shock if Cameroon or Ghana failed to make the second round as Benin and Guinea-Bissau appear to be among the weakest qualifiers.