Africa Cup of Nations 2019: All you need to know

The 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will kick off on June 21 in Egypt. Here's everything you need to know about AFCON 2019.

The African Cup of Nations is a biennial continental competition played among Africa's top footballing nations.   -  Getty Images

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on 21 June when host Egypt takes on Zimbabwe in the opener at the Cairo International Stadium. The 32nd edition of the biennial continental competition, conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), is played among Africa's top footballing nations.

Egypt is the most successful team in the tournament’s history, with seven titles to its name, followed by defending champion Cameroon and Ghana with five and four titles, respectively.

Most titles

Egypt - 7

Cameroon - 5

Ghana - 4

Nigeria - 3

Ivory Coast and DR Congo - 2

 

A tournament of firsts

There are a number of firsts in this year’s AFCON. The tournament which is usually held during the months of January and February, will be held during June and July this year.

The number of teams have increased from 16 to 24, divided into six groups of four each. In a format similar to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2016 UEFA Euro, four best third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16, alongside the top two teams from each group.

READ | Growth of AFCON: From three nations in Sudan to 24 in Egypt

How they got here

Out of the 54 countries in Africa, 51 entered the AFCON qualifiers. Chad was banned by the CAF due to its withdrawal from the 2017 AFCON qualifiers. Eritrea and Somalia did not enter.

The six lowest-ranked teams from the 51 played an extra preliminary qualifying round of two legs, out of which three were eliminated. The 48 remaining teams were split into 12 groups of four each and the top two teams from each group qualified for the 2019 AFCON.

Sierra Leone entered the qualifiers but was disqualified due to FIFA's suspension of the Sierra Leone Football Association. FIFA lifted the suspension earlier this month.

Major teams missing

Ethiopia (1962), Sudan (1970), Congo (1972) and Zambia (2012) are the former winners missing from this edition. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon also failed to qualify for this year’s competition.

Controversies

The AFCON kicks off as African football goes through a troubled period. FIFA has taken over the running of African football in the wake of the corruption scandals engulfing the CAF. FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura has been brought in as “FIFA General Delegate for Africa”.

Defending champion Cameroon was stripped off hosting right for the continental tournament in November last year after the CAF deemed it unfit to host an expanded 24-team format after delays in its preparations.

READ | Africa hopes stars can shine in Egypt after officials cause shame

Players to watch out for

2019 has been a wonderful year for Egypt’s Mohammad Salah and Senegal’s Sadio Mane, with both bagging a UEFA Champions League winners’ medal and the Premier League golden boot with Liverpool. Both will be eager to achieve continental glory with their respective nations. Mane will have the support of Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly at Senegal.

READ | Fit and firing Salah carries hopes of host Egypt

Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez will be looking to add to his domestic treble with Manchester City by winning his country’s second AFCON title (first title came in 1990).

Hakim Ziyech, a double-winner with Dutch side Ajax will be the main man in Morocco’s quest for continental glory after 43 years.

Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan will be looking to finally win a trophy with his country after performing a recent retirement U-turn.

Teams

Group A: Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Group B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi

Group C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania

Group D: Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia

Group E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Angola

Group F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau

 

READ | Egypt vs Zimbabwe: Expectations mount as Salah launches bid for glory

Match timings and telecast (all timings in IST)

The matches will be telecast on SONY SIX and SONY ESPN and live streamed on the SONY LIV app.

The first two rounds of the tournament’s group stage will have three telecast timings: 8 pm, 10:30 pm and 1:30 am.

The final group stage round and knockout games will have 9:30 pm and 12:30 am kick-off timings.

Schedule

June 21-July 2: Group stage

July 5-July 8: Round of 16

July 10-July 11: Quarterfinals

July 14: Semifinals

July 17: Third-place match

July 19: Final