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The Africa Cup of Nations

By Glenn Cowan

For the benefitof those who have been living on another planet, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is the main international football competition in Africa. However you might be surprised to know that the tournament itself has actually been around 60 years with Sudan staging the tournament, before finishing up Third behind Ethiopia and eventual winners Egypt.

The Early Days

South-Africa were due to play Ethiopia in the semifinals but were sadly disqualified due to apartheid. Ethiopia took advantage of the bye before getting on the receiving end of a four-nil thrashing in the final.

As the opening tournament to the biannual tournament it holds records for the least amount of teams in attendance, followed by as you would perhaps expect the least amounts of goals scored. This didn’t prevent Egyption Ad-Diba taking the prize of top goalscorer with no less than four of his five goals coming in that final match.

Tournament Expansion

As early as 1963 the AFCON tournament saw expansion to feature 8 matches followed by another increase in the 1968 tournament which saw 16 games played out, with Ethiopia taking the main prize, beating United Arab Republic (as it was then) 4:2 after extra time.

The most recent hike in games took place in 1998 when there were a total of 32 matches played.The record number of goals scored took place in 2008, with a total of 99, or just over 3 per game. The least number of goals per match took place in the 1988 tournament with only 23 goals coming from the 16 games.

Big Name EPL Stars

The awareness and focus on the AFCON has grown in recent times. Largely this has come about due to an increase in players performing in the English Premier League week in week out.The current tournament (2017) has seen no less than 26 Premier League players representing their respective countries in Gabon.

The list of big name stars includes:

  • Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) - Leicester City

  • Sadio Mane (Senegal) - Liverpool

  • Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast) - Manchester United

  • Andre Ayew (Ghana) - West Ham United

  • Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt) - Hull City

  • Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) - Crystal Palace

  • Idrissa Gueye (Senegal) - Everton

The number of games potentially means that Premier League teams could end up missing their players for upto 4 games.In real terms, more than half of Premier League teams will have players representing their home nations at this years tournament. Five teams will be without 3 of their first team squad members.

Memorable Finals

Many of the recent finals have been very tight affairs, with the odd goal separating the winning team.Furthermore, many of the games ended in a 0:0 stalemate; however, the action didn’t stop there, extra time and the “dreaded” penalty shoot out decided a number of tournaments in recent times.

Ivory Coast took the spoils in 2015 after their 0:0 draw went to extra time. A penalty shootout was the only way to separate the two teams, with Ghana eventually losing 9:8.Zambia ran out winners in 2012, again after a goalless draw. The period of extra time wasn’t enough to separate them from Ivory Coast, with Zambia winning the game in an explosive 8-7 shootout.

Both of these games were eclipsed by the 1992 final in Senegal. The final between Ivory Coast and Ghana was played out as a nil nil draw. Penalties once again had to separate the two teams with Ivory Coast running out 11-10 winners.

Record Holders

Egypt has by far the most impressive record in the tournament, winning it no less than seven times, they have also been runners up once.Ghana have the next best record with nice final appearances, winning it on four occasions. Cameroon have also won the tournament four times, twice being runners up.

3 Different Trophy’s

Throughout the history of the African Cup of Nations there has been no less than 3 different trophies up for grabs.The original silver trophy was the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, which was named after the first CAF president. Ghana obtained the right to permanently hold the trophy after winning it 3 times.

The second trophy was called the Trophy of African Unity and spanned the period from 1980 to 2000. It was awarded by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa prior to the 1980 tournament. Cameroon won this trophy indefinitely after becoming three time champions in 2000.In 2001 a third trophy was introduced, this gold-plated cup was designed in Italy. Cameron ran out winners of the first tournament with this new trophy having won the 2002 tournament. Egypt won this trophy indefinitely after they became three-time champions in 2010; however, they were presented with a special full-size replica version.

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