The 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is set to kick off in under two weeks time. A total of 16 teams will be competing in the tournament which will kick off on the 14th January with hosts, Gabon taking on Group A rivals, Guinea-Bissau.
AFCON 2017 was supposed to be hosted by Libya but were stripped of their hosting rights due to the unrest within the country due to a civil war. Libya, in fact, was supposed to host the 2013 edition but traded their hosting rights with South Africa who were initially the hosts for the 2017 tournament. Gabon who had co-hosted the 2012 AFCON along with Equatorial Guinea were awarded the 2017 tournament, while Equatorial Guinea went on to play host to the 2015 AFCON. Morocco had declined their hosting rights for the 2015 tournament owing to the Ebola epidemic the West African countries had faced at the time.
How they Qualified & How it will play out
As mentioned earlier a total of 16 teams will be contesting in the tournament which kicks off on the 14th of January. Libya earned direct qualification to the finals as the hosts, while the other 15 teams had to earn their place by going through the qualifying stage.
The 16 team who’ve made it to the finals will be drawn into 4 groups of 4 teams each. Each team will play the other three teams in their group once & the top two from each group will move on to the quarter-finals & so on. The winners’ of the two semi-final ties will contest the final on the 5th of February 2017.
During the group stages – two or more team are tied on the same number of points then: –
- The Goal Difference
- Number of Goals scored
The 16 finalists were potted into 4 group of 4 by considering their past performances in Africa Cup of Nations Finals, AFCON qualifiers, FIFA World Cup Finals & FIFA Qualifiers. As the hosts, Gabon automatically qualified & as the top-seeded Nation entered Pot 1 along with Ghana, Ivory Coast & Algeria.
Nations who missed out – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations
For the second consecutive AFCON tournament, the Super Eagles have failed to qualify for the final round. After missing out on their chance to defend their title in the 2015 edition, both fans & neutrals alike were hoping to see Nigeria this time around. The former three-time champions were widely expected to qualify put were unlucky to have been grouped together with Chad. Chad withdrew from the tournament owing to financial difficulties. Super Eagles thus were denied the chance to qualify as one of the two 2nd place finishers as a result.
Bafana Bafana is the other big name missing from the 2017 AFCON tournament. Over the last two decades, the quality of the game in the country has improved by leaps & bounds largely thanks to the ever improving PSL. South Africa had appeared in all but two of the last 9 AFCON Championships. In the qualifying stages, South Africa failed to impress & ultimately finished 3rd in their group winning just one & drawing 4 of their 6 matches.
2017 Africa Cup of Nations – The Groups
Gabon – Hosts of Africa Cup of Nations
Gabon will be making their 7th appearance in the finals of the AFCON. They were part of AFCON 2015 but made a disappointing group stage exit. Currently “the Panthers” as they are known are ranked 111th in the FIFA Rankings making them the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. The Panthers will be led by Borussia Dortmund’s star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whose performance will be vital to whether Gabon can make it out from their group. Gabon has never won the competition & their best ever performance till date has been a couple of quarter-final exits (1996 & 2012). The 2012 edition saw them lose out in the quarter-finals against Mali in a penalty shoot-out with Aubameyang being the only one that missed a penalty.
Cameroon – Looking to Reclaim lost Glory
Cameroon will be making their 18th appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. They qualified for this year’s tournament as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of South Africa, Gambia & Mauritania. The Cameroonians are currently ranked 59th in the FIFA World rankings. They are 4-time winners of the competition winning the 1984, 1988, 2000 & 2002 editions of the tournament. The 2002 edition saw them beating Senegal 3-2 on penalties in the final. Cameroon made a group stage exit in the 2015 edition of the tournament failing to win a single game. They qualified from their qualifying group by not losing a single game & conceding just 2 goals in 6 games. The best ever finish the Indomitable Lions have registered in the AFCON since their win in 2002 was a runner-up finish in 2008, losing to Egypt 1-0 in the final. Former QPR & Sevilla striker Stephane Mbia is the current captain of the Cameroon National team.
Burkina Faso – Suprise Packages
The Stallions will be making their 11th appearance in the finals of the AFCON Championship. Burkina Faso qualified for the tournament as the winner of their qualifying group which had Uganda, Botswana & Comoros in the mix. They were part of AFCON 2015 but made a disappointing group stage without winning a single game. Ranked 50th in the world as per the FIFA World Rankings, Burkina Faso will be hoping to do one better than their runner-up finish in the 2013 edition of the tournament. Charles Kabore, currently plying his trade with Russian club FC Krasnodar is the current captain of Burkina Faso.
Guinea-Bissau – The Newbies
The one & only nation who will be making their AFCON debut in this edition of the tournament. Ranked 68th in the FIFA World Rankings, Guinea-Bissau qualified for the tournament as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of Congo, Zambia & Kenya. Nicknamed “Djurtus”, Guinea-Bissau toppled Zambia 3-2 in the qualifying stages which was one of the best games in the qualifying round. The Djurtus will be led by 29-year-old Bocundji Ca who currently plays with French 2nd tier club, Paris FC.
Fixtures – Group A – Africa Cup of Nations 2017
|#||Fixture||Date||Time||Venue & Capacity|
|1||Gabon x Guinea-Bissau||14-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
|2||Burkina Faso x Cameroon||14-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
|3||Gabon x Burkina Faso||18-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
|4||Cameroon x Guinea-Bissau||18-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
|5||Cameroon x Gabon||22-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
|6||Guinea-Bissau x Burkina Faso||22-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
Group B – AFCON 2017
Algeria – Strong Favorites
2017 AFCON will mark Algeria’s 17th appearances in the finals of the competition. They qualified for the tournament as the winners of their qualifying group which consisted of Lesotho, Seychelles & Ethiopia. Algeria dominated their qualifying group scoring a total of 25 goals & winning all but one of their 6 group games. They have won the competition on one occasion previously in 1990 when they beat Nigeria 1-0 in the final. Their best ever performance since their triumph in 1990 was a 4th place finish in the 2010 AFCON championship. They were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2015 edition, losing to Ivory Coast 3-1. Dinamo Zagreb striker, El Arabi Hillel Soudani was their top scorer in the qualifiers with 7 goals, he was the competitions’ top scorer in the qualifying stages as well. Carl Medjani will be captaining the side in the upcoming tournament.
Tunisia – Our time is now?
Tunisia will be making their 18th appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Having qualified as the winners of their group which consisted of Togo, Liberia & Djibouti, Tunisia will be hoping to make a greater impact in the competition than they done recently. The Carthage Eagles as they are known have won the competition on one occasion back in 2004 when they defeated Morocco 2-1 in the final. Tunisia’s best ever performance since then has been a number of quarter-final appearances mostly recently in 2015 when they lost to Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in extra time. Etoile du Sahel keeper, Aymen Mathlouthi is the current captain of the Tunisian national side. They are currently ranked 22nd in the FIFA World Rankings.
Senegal – A New Beginning
Senegal will be making their 14th appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. They qualified for the tournament as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of Namibia, Niger & Burundi. Senegal won all 6 of their group games, scoring 13 goals & conceding just 2. Senegal’s best performance in a tournament was a runner-up finish in the 2002 edition of the tournament when they lost to Cameroon. Their best performance since then was a 4th place finish in the 2006 edition of the tournament. They crashed out in the group stages of the last year’s tournament by finishing 3rd in a tough group. They are currently ranked 32nd in the FIFA World Rankings. West Ham United midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate is the current captain of the national side.
Zimbabwe – Dark-Horse
AFCON 2017 marks their 3rd appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. The Warriors as they are known qualified for the tournament by winning their group which consisted of Guinea, Malawi & Swaziland. Their previous appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations came in 2006 when they went out in the group stage itself.Zimbabwe, in fact, had made group stage exits in their other two appearances in the competition as well but to be fair to them were placed in difficult groups on both those times. Zimbabwe has won one game apiece in both the 2004 & 2006 editions of the tournament, beating Algeria in 2004 & Ghana in 2006, despite their wins the Warriors still finished bottom of the group. Zimbabwe is currently ranked 102nd in FIFA World Rankings.30-year-old midfielder Willard Katsande is the current captain of the national team.
Fixtures – Group B – Africa Cup of Nations 2017
|#||Fixture||Date||Time||Venue & Capacity|
|1||Algeria x Zimbabwe||15-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
|2||Tunisia x Senegal||15-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
|3||Algeria x Tunisia||19-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
|4||Senegal x Zimbabwe||19-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
|5||Senegal x Algeria||23-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Franceville (22,000)|
|6||Zimbabwe x Tunisia||23-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de l’Amitie (40,000)|
Group C – AFCON 2017
Watch Ivory Coast’s triumph over Ghana in AFCON 2015 final:-
Togo – The Lucky Ones
Togo qualified as one of the two best-ranked 2nd placed teams. Togo, in fact, were the 16th team to have qualified for the tournament beating out Benin & Ethiopia both of whom finished 2nd in their respective groups & had 7 points to their name but Togo had a superior Goal Difference over the duo. Togo was initially grouped together with Tunisia, Liberia & Djibouti. 2017 will mark their 8th appearance in the Africa Cup of Nations. Their previous appearance was in the 2013 edition of the tournament & went on to make a quarter-final exit losing to Burkina Faso 1-0 in extra-time, it was their best-ever performance in the competition as well. Former Arsenal & Real Madrid striker Emmanuel Adebayor is the current captain of the national side. They are currently ranked 93rd in the FIFA World Rankings.
Morocco – Making up the Numbers?
Morocco qualified for the finals as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of Cape Verde, Libya & Sao-Tome, and Principe. Atlas Lions as they are known managed to do so with relative ease winning 5 & drawing one of their 6 group games, conceding just a single goal. This is will be their 16th appearance in the finals of the tournament. Having originally been the hosts of AFCON 2015, Morocco pulled & were eventually overlooked for the tournament. Morocco was part of AFCON 2013 but had to settle for a disappointing group stage exit. They are a one-time winner of the competition having beaten Guinea, Nigeria & Egypt in the final round of the 1976 edition. Ranked 60th in the current FIFA World Rankings, Morocco best ever performance since their triumph in 1976 has been a runner-up finish in the 2004 edition. Medhi Benatia who is currently on a loan spell at Juventus will be captaining the side for the tournament.
DR Congo – Predators
First Sub-Saharan country to ever qualify for the FIFA World Cup. DR Congo qualified for the tournament as the winners of qualifying group B which consisted of the Central African Republic, Angola & Madagascar. This will be their 18th appearance in the finals of the tournament & finished 3rd in the last edition of the tournament. They have won the competition on two previous occasions, winning it in 1968 & again in 1974. The Leopards are currently ranked 47th in the FIFA World Rankings. Norwich City midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu is the current captain of DR Congo.
Ivory Coast – Defending Champions
The defending Champions come into the tournament having qualified as the winner of their group which had Sierre Leone, Sudan & Gabon. Since Gabon had already qualified as the hosts, the games between them were considered as friendlies. Despite winning the group their performances were largely disappointing winning just one & drawing the other three games which counted. Making their 22nd appearance in the finals of the tournament, Ivory Coast are two-time previous champions, having won the competition previously in 1992. Basel Midfielder Serey Die is the current captain of the side who is currently ranked 31st in the FIFA World Rankings.
Fixtures – Group C – Africa Cup of Nations 2017
|#||Fixture||Date||Time||Venue & Capacity|
|1||Ivory Coast x Togo||16-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
|2||DR Congo x Morocco||16-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
|3||Ivory Coast x DR Congo||20-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
|4||Morocco x Togo||20-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
|5||Morocco x Ivory Coast||24-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
|6||Togo x DR Congo||24-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
Group D – AFCON 2017
Mali – Darkhorse 2.0
Mali who’ll be making their 10th appearance in the finals of the tournament qualified as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of Benin, Equatorial Guinea & South Sudan. Having exited the 2015 edition of the tournament in the group stages Mali will be hoping to do one better than their previous best performance in the competition, a runner-up finish in 1972 AFCON losing to Congo 3-2 in the final. Since 1972, Mali has gone on to register numerous semi-final appearances most notably the consecutive third place finishes in 2012 & 2013 AFCON tournaments. The Eagles who are currently ranked 58th in the FIFA World Rankings will be led by Striker Modibo Maiga in the upcoming tournament.
Egypt – After a long time
The competition’s most successful nation will be making their comeback into the tournament after a gap of 7 years. Egypt who will be making a record 23rd appearance in the competition gained their spot as the winner of their qualifying group which had Nigeria, Tanzania & Chad in the mix. The last time Egypt were part of the AFCON was in 2010 & the Pharaohs ended up winning the competition, their third consecutive AFCON title & 7th overall. Egypt was the first ever winner of the competition beating Ethiopia 4-0 in the final of AFCON 1957. In addition to their title wins in 1957 & 2010, the Pharaohs have also won the competition in 1959, 1986, 1998. 2006 & 2008. Following their win in 2010, the Pharaohs were awarded the trophy indefinitely. Ranked 36th in the FIFA World Rankings, Egyptians will feature in AFCON 2017 under the captaincy of 43-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadry.
Ghana – Hope this is our year
Making their 21st appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, Ghana made it into the final 16 as the winner of their qualifying group which consisted of Rwanda, Mauritius & Mozambique. The Black Stars are former 4-time winners of the competition, namely in 1963, 1965, 1978 & 1982. Ghana nearly made it 5 AFCON titles in 2015 but lost to Ivory Coast on penalties (9-8) in the final. The Black Stars, in fact, has had a number of near-misses in the recent editions of the competition – 2008 (3rd), 2010 (2nd), 2012 & 2013 (4th). Ranked 53rd in the current FIFA World Rankings, Ghana will be lead by former Udinese & Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan in the upcoming tournament.
Uganda – After a wait of 38 years
Uganda ended their 38-year long wait to appear in the competition by qualifying as the first of the two best-ranked 2nd placed teams. Having been grouped together with Burkina Faso, Botswana & Comoros, Uganda finished level on points, goal difference & total goals scored with group winners Burkina Faso but had to settle for 2nd place owing to the Stallions’ superior head to head record. This will be Uganda’s 6th appearance in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations & first since 1978. The 1978 AFCON tournament marked their best-ever performance in the competition finishing runner-up to Ghana. All three of Uganda’s wins in the competition came in 1978. Currently ranked 72nd in the FIFA World Rankings, the Cranes will be led by Striker Geogrey Massa for the upcoming tournament.
Fixtures – Group D – Africa Cup of Nations
|#||Fixture||Date||Time||Venue & Capacity|
|1||Ghana x Uganda||17-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
|2||Mali x Egypt||17-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
|3||Ghana x Mali||21-01-2017||16.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
|4||Egypt x Uganda||21-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
|5||Egypt x Ghana||25-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade de Port-Gentil (20,000)|
|6||Uganda x Mali||25-01-2017||19.00 GMT||Stade d’Oyem (20,500)|
 Mirror.co.uk, Super Eagles fail to qualify for AFCON 2017