The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is here again. For Europeans, it’s distraction considering many clubs are likely to lose star players during this period. However, it’s the biggest celebration of African football where the very best of players from the continent display their talent.
As the 31st edition kicks off tomorrow, here’s our definitive guide to the biennial tournament.
2. Burkina Fasso
1. Ivory Coast
2. DR Congo
The tournament beings on the 14th of January and runs until the 5th of February. The competition was scheduled to be hosted by Libya, until the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rescinded its hosting rights in August 2014 due to the ongoing conflict in the country. The tournament will instead be hosted by Gabon.
All 16 teams are drawn into a group of four and will play in a single round-robin manner. After the group stage, the top two teams from each group will advance to the last eight. The quarter-final winners will advance to the last four. The semi-final losers will play in third place match, while semi-final winners will play in final.
Stade de l’Amitié –Libreville. Capacity: 40,000
Stade de Franceville – Franceville. Capacity: 22,000
Stade d’Oyem – Oyem. Capacity: 20,000
Stade de – Port-Gentil. Capacity: 20,000
1957 – Egypt
1959 – United Arab Republic
1962 – Ethopia
1963 – Ghana
1965 – Ghana
1968 – Congo-Kinshasa
1970 – Sudan
1972 – Congo
1974 – Zaire
1976 – Morocco
1978 – Ghana
1980 – Nigeria
1982 – Ghana
1984 – Cameroon
1986 – Egypt
1988 – Cameroon
1990 – Algeria
1992 – Ivory Coast
1994 – Nigeria
1996 – South Africa
1998 – Egypt
2000 – Cameroon
2002 – Cameroon
2004 – Tunisia
2006 – Egypt
2008 – Egypt
2010 – Egypt
2012 – Zambia
2013 – Nigeria
2015 – Ivory Coast
Guinea-Bissau are making their first appearance at the competition.
Three-time champions, Nigeria, are the biggest absentee from the competition. Other notable absentees are 2012 winners, Zambia and 1996 champions, South Africa.
Ivorian, Siaka Tiéné, is on track for his record eight tournaments having featured in all editions since 2002.
Egypt will be making their 22nd appearance at the competition – the most by any nation.
Stars to watch:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon, Borussia Dortmund)
Sadio Mane (Senegal, Liverpool)
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Leicester City)
Mohammed Salah (Egypt, AS Roma)
Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast, Stoke City)
Who are your favourites?
Defending champions the Ivory Coast, will be aiming for their third African title. But the likes of Ghana, Senegal, Algeria and Cameroon, who have all failed to win the last five editions, will be eager to get their hands on the trophy.
Premier League players set to take part:
Arsenal: Ismael Bennacer (Algeria), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt).
Bournemouth: Max Gradel (Ivory Coast).
Crystal Palace: Bakary Sako (Mali), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast).
Everton: Idrissa Gueye (Senegal).
Hull City: Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt), Dieumerci Mbokani (DR Congo).
Leicester City: Daniel Amartey (Ghana), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Islam Slimani (Algeria).
Liverpool: Sadio Mane (Senegal).
Manchester United: Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast).
Southampton: Sofiane Boufal (Morocco).
Stoke City: Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast), Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal), Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt).
Sunderland: Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia), Lamine Kone (Ivory Coast), Didier N’dong (Gabon).
Watford: Nordin Amrabat (Morocco), Brice Dja Djedje (Ivory Coast), Adlene Guedioura (Algeria).
West Ham: Andre Ayew (Ghana), Cheikou Kouyate (Senegal).
West Brom: Allan Nyom ( he is reporting for duty with Cameroon but has asked to withdraw and remain with the club.)