In about three month’s time, after club football has been concluded- on the 15th of June to be more precise- the Africa Cup of Nations would kick off. This event will happen in the summer for the first time (and for subsequent tournaments) and the era where the tournament was played in January has finally come to an end. Let us take a minute to imagine if the tournament was held this January (especially considering the fact that Liverpool is competing for the Premier League title) and the likes of Mohammed Salah and Sadio Mane had to leave to represent their respective countries. The reaction by Jurgen Klopp if that had happened would have been priceless.
This is also the first Africa Cup of Nations tournament in which there would be 24 teams across Africa competing for the trophy as opposed to the previous number of 16. This automatically means that there will be more groups, there will also be best loser selections from four of the groups (just like in the Euros) and there will also be last-16 knock-out games. This obviously lengthens the duration of the tournament and gives more African teams the chance to participate (and probably) win the competition.
Cameroon was scheduled to host the competition but was eventually stripped of hosting rights on the 30th of November 2018 due to delays in the building and construction of stadia and other infrastructure. There was also a very major concern regarding terrorist attacks from Boko Haram. Morocco was touted as the replacement host but did not show any interest and therefore did not put in a bid. Eventually, on the 8th of January 2019, CAF (The Confederation of African Football) announced that Egypt would be the host of this year’s tournament. Ironically, in the 2017 tournament (held in Gabon, just in case you have a quiz) it was Cameroon that prevented Egypt from winning the trophy, defeating them 2-1 in the Final.
The group stages and fixtures are yet to be confirmed. However the table below shows the qualified teams and the seeding pots.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
Table as shown on goal.com
Teams to watch out for.
EGYPT: Now that the tournament is going to be hosted in Egypt, the chances of the host nation winning their eighth title just got higher. Egypt, with the talismanic Mohammed Salah has the chance to win the trophy in their own backyard and will be more motivated by the fact that the trophy was just one step ahead of them in the last tournament. The team has a solid base and can play some very attractive football.
CAMEROON: The defending Champions have not actually had very good results especially after winning the Nations Cup trophy in 2017. They were not able to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 and finished second in their qualifying group, albeit with the same number of points as Morocco. They cannot be underestimated in this tournament as they a very physical and direct side.
SENEGAL: This Mane-led team is yet to display their full potential. Is this the tournament in which they do so? They had a good World Cup campaign, finishing with four points from a very tough group, although eventually not qualifying. They are a very organized side with a good defence and very athletic players.
Ultimately, there are a lot of things occurring for the first time in this tournament. Would we also see a new winner at the end? We cannot wait.