Written by Billy Munday
The African Cup Of Nations (0r AFCON) is held every 2 years in the middle of the European league season in January which is why you may not be seeing some of your players turning out for your club over the next few weeks. So here is a brief but informative guide on this year’s tournament.
Where is the tournament being held?
This year, for the first time ever as a lone host, Gabon will host AFCON after a complicated series of events. South Africa were originally due to host the 2017 AFCON but traded their year with Libya to host the 2013 AFCON after Libya’s civil war. In 2014, Libya were deemed unable to host the 2017 tournament so Gabon were chosen to host it, after previously hosting it with Equatorial Guinea in 2012.
When is the tournament and how does it work?
AFCON 2017 kicks off on Saturday 14th January at 4pm UK time with the opening game of hosts Gabon vs Guinea-Bissau and runs until the final on the 5th of February in Libreville, with a total of 32 matches in 22 days. The group stage consists of 16 teams split into 4 groups of 4, with the top 2 teams from each group progressing through to the quarter finals. Then there are semi finals and an always compelling third place play-off before the final at the Stade de l’Amitie. If you’re still confused it is the same format as the Euro’s before 2016.
Which teams and players will be involved this year?
The favourites, as they are for most years, are holders, Ivory Coast who have recently acquired Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha after he switched his international alliance from English. The Elephants also included Wilfried Bony, Max Gradel, Lamine Kone and Eric Bailly in their squad but are without recently-retired, midfield stalwart, Yaya Toure.
Another strong team at AFCON 2017 are Algeria, who have the likes of PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani at their disposal, other key players are Porto trickster Yacine Brahimi and Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulam who have both played in the Champions League this season. Algeria have won AFCON only once, in 1990 beating Nigeria 1-0 in the final, Algeria were also the hosts that year.
Senegal are yet to win an African Cup of Nations, finishing runners up in the 2002 tournament. In their squad they have English-based players, Idrissa Gueye, Sadio Mane and Mame Diouf, who’s absences could prove costly to their clubs in this period in the season with especially Gueye and Mane being vital players for their Merseyside clubs this year.
But what about Nigeria?
The Super Eagles did not qualify for this year’s tournament after they finished 2nd in their qualifying group behind Egypt. This means English clubs will not lose the services of players such as Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho.
credit Kieran Clarke
Any players to look out for?
An obvious one is Borussia Dortmund striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who plays for hosts, Gabon. Aubameyang has scored 16 goals in the Bundesliga this season and has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City so maybe a taste of life without Aubameyang for Dortmund.
However if you’re looking for a promising player to sign on Football Manager and claim as your own, Frank Yannick Kessie of Ivory Coast and Atalanta in Italy is a 20-year-old, central midfielder who has impressed in Serie A this season, attracting attention of Antonio Conte at Chelsea. Kessie made his international debut for Ivory Coast in 2014 as a 17-year-old and has made 10 senior appearances in total for his country.
The passion and excitement of this tournament really makes it worth watching, if you want an example of this just look up what happened in the 2015 AFCON final where Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry was the hero as he won his country the tournament with his heroics in an extraordinary penalty shoot-out. In the UK, Eurosport will show almost all the games in this year’s AFCON with most of the games kicking off at 4pm and 7pm. So now you know all that you need to know, you can follow your club’s players in their quest for African glory.
Will you be watching AFCON? Will your club be weakened by losing players? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Jake Brown