2019 sees the return of the African Cup Of Nations, but with a few changes this year. The tournament this year will begin in June for the first time in the history of the Nations Cup. It will take place in Egypt (rather controversially) with a new amount of teams, 24 to be exact, rather than the original 16.
So What’s New?
As Previously mentioned, The African Cup Of Nations used to have spaces for just 16 African Nations to take part, but for the first time 24 sides will have the chance to add their name to the winners board. With qualification not quite complete we know we will see two countries (Madagascar and Mauritania) that have never seen an international competition before get their first shot at glory.
The change in date has been debated back and fourth for quite a while in Africa, but it was decided that finally in 2019 the African Cup Of Nations will move to June rather than the original date of January. The Confederation Of African Football (CAF) decided it made sense to move to the summer to follow the likes of South America and Europe, and therefore stop the constant moaning and groaning of European clubs who used to lose their players during the season.
However, there are still many doubters of the new system. Many people are concerned that the quality of the tournament will drop to an even lower standard than it is currently. As well as this the weather originally played a part in the original decision to play the competition in January. In June/July some West African countries like Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast they go through a rain season where they will get up to 170mm of rainfall, whereas in the early months of the year that number is dramatically decreased.
So as previously mentioned the tournament will be held in Egypt, I know what you’re all thinking well surely they’ve been preparing for years?! well… no.
Originally the 2019 African Cup Of Nations was pencilled in to be hosted by Cameroon but in late 2018 after much deliberation and check ups on the host nation it became apparent that Cameroon would be unable to host the tournament due to the infrastructure delays and conflict in the Southern part of the country.
The unfortunate circumstances in Cameroon gave a chance for other countries to host the tournament. Egypt and South Africa were the final two for the CAF executive to choose from.
The vote was very heavily in favour of an Egyptian tournament, with many suggesting it as pay back for South Africa after the South African FA claimed to have voted for a North American World Cup over a potential World Cup in Morocco and had been seen as “breaking the code” after turning their back on a fellow African nation.
Egypt also have the advantage of having one of the biggest stadiums in Africa in their Capital. The Cairo International Stadium holds an incredible 74,100 fans and are also planning on using another 5 stadiums all in the North of the country.
The New Look:
The 24 team tournament will run in the exact same set up as the recently changed European Tournament (Euros).
Once qualification is completed the teams will be seeded into 4 blocks of 6, they will then be put into groups of 4. The top two from each group will proceed to the knockout stage along side the 4 best 3rd place finishers. From there it’s pretty straight forward, the 16 sides will enter a knockout process down to the final to finally crown the new African champions?
The teams already qualified are:
Who Are The Favourites?
I think it goes without saying the Egyptians will be right up there come the end of the tournament. Egypt were one of the African sides representing the region during the World Cup in Russia and with Mo Salah leading the line anything is possible for the Pharaoh’s.
Nigeria, another powerhouse who will be tipped to win the trophy for the fourth time. Their ever changing squad still has some gems such as Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo. The talented duo will hope to fire the Super Eagles back to the top of the perch.
Cameroon will also be spoken about, The Lions have yet to qualify, but with one game remaining look set to join the party. The West African nation won the previous AFCON back in 2017 and will be looking to retain the prize.
The best African side at World Cup 2018 need to be mentioned too, Senegal will also be right up there this year for sure. Aliou Cisse’s men will be chomping at their first AFCON trophy and with the help of Sadio Mane and co. it is likely they’ll be very dangerous.
Ones To Watch:
We’ll start with a star that currently hasn’t qualified but is on the cusp of qualification, A largely unknown man from Burundi by the name of Fiston Abdul Razak. The striker who currently plays in the Algerian Premier League and smashed in 6 goals in just 5 appearances and the 25- year old will hope to be catching the eyes of the European Scouts.
Mohamed Salah will of course be in the spotlight when the AFCON kicks off in June the Egyptian man struggled to perform at the World Cup but will hope to get over the disappointment of the final loss 2 years ago.
Angola are also yet to secure qualification to the Tournament but do have 2 of the top 6 goal scorers in Mateus and Gelson, The strike force will hope to fire Angola deep in to tournament that they have missed out on in the last 2 tournaments.
Moses Simon currently of Levante will be one to watch in the upcoming tournament, the winger who recently left Genk is only 23 and made a shock move to Levante despite many rumours of him leaving for a Premier League side.
And last but certainly not least, Keita Balde, The Inter Milan man was my man to watch during the World Cup but sadly he hardly appeared, however the tricky winger averaging 4 games per goal is an improvement from before which will hopefully improve his chances at staring at this years Tournament for Senegal.
Who do you think will win the African Cup Of Nations? let us know!
Make sure you check these articles out, they might interest you:
- Champions League predictions – Round of 16
- What if Foles Played the Other Football?
- A look into the future World Cup 2026 Part 1
- An insight into The World Cup 2026 – Part Two
- One to Watch – Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt)