The Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicksoff tonight with the hosts Egypt facing Zimbabwe in the tournament’s opening match.
There is a lot a lot to keep an eye out for in this tournament including Champions League winners among other star players.
The Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations is the biggest ever tournament in the history of the completion with 24 teams participating compared to 16 that have been taking part in the previous tournaments.
This year’s tournament is also the first one to be played between June and July as the previous tournaments were always played in January and sometimes through to February.
Several star names from across the globe will grace this campaign including Liverpool duo and Champions League winners Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal), among other stars.
The pair were also joint top scorers in the Premier League this season together with another African star and Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whose country, Gabon did not qualify for the tournament.
Guinea will also be boosted by the late fitness of another Liverpool star Naby Keita who is still recovering from a thigh injury.
Algeria will be hoping for big inspiration from Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez though he did not end the season on high.
Morocco’s expectations from Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech will be high after ending the season with 21 goals and 24 assists with the Amsterdam club.
Ivory Coast comes into the tournament as one of the favorites given their star-studded side that feature the likes Lille forward Nicolas Pepe who has attracted a lot of interests from big clubs across Europe after bagging 22 League 1 goals this season. Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha is also another big name in the squad together with several others.
Mali will also be looking forward to build up on FC Porto’s Mousa Marega form who finished joint top scorer in the Champions League with six goals and he will be looking forward to add on his two goal tally so far for his country.
In addition to Sadio Mane, Senegal will also be counting on the versatility of Napoli center back Kalidou Koulibaly while Ghana’s midfield will be boosted by Atletico Madrid’s ace Thomas Partey
Together with the hosts Egypt, the other tournament’s favorites include Senegal, Ivory Coast and Ghana though Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco also look ready to challenge for the title.
A new format of the tournament
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided in July 2017 that starting with this year, the tournament will be played in June and July not January and February as it used to be. This will eliminate the disputes with the European clubs who had to lose their African players in the middle of the season.
The body also decided to increase the number of teams to participate in the tournament from 16 to 24 taking the same format with Euro 2016. There are six groups and the top two teams from each group together with the top third-placed qualifying into the last 16.
The hosts Egypt are the most success nation in the history of the tournament after winning the trophy seven times.
Like the previous three tournaments, this year’s Africa Cup of Nations will also be held in a different country to the one it was initially awarded to.
Cameroon who are the defending champions were the initial hosts of the tournament but the hosting rights were taken off them in November due to slow preparations and security concerns.
The CAF invited for new bids to host the tournament and in January Egypt were declared the new hosts after beating other bidders including South Africa. They were given six months to prepare.
Tournament First Timers
The expanded format of the tournament to 24 teams presented a big opportunity for some new nations that had never featured at the tournament.
Consequently, three new nations including Burundi, Madagascar and Mauritania will feature in this year’s tournament for the first time.
All the six groups
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