Africa Cup of Nations
The CAF Africa Cup of Nations, officially CAN, also referred to as AFCON, or Total Africa Cup of Nations after its headline sponsor, is the main international men's association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football and was first held in 1957. Since 1968, it has been held every two years. The title holders at the time of a FIFA Confederations Cup qualify for that competition.
In the first edition in 1957 there were only three participating nations: Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. South Africa was originally scheduled to compete, but were disqualified due to the apartheid policies of the government then in power. Since then the tournament has grown greatly, making it necessary to hold a qualifying tournament. The number of participants in the final tournament reached 16 in 1998, and until 2017, the format had been unchanged, with the sixteen teams being drawn into four groups of four teams each, with the top two teams of each group advancing to a "knock-out" stage. On 20 July 2017, the Africa Cup of Nations was moved from January to June and expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
Egypt is the most successful nation in the cup's history, winning the tournament a record of seven times. Three different trophies have been awarded during the tournament's history, with Ghana and Cameroon winning the first two versions to keep after each of them won a tournament three times. The current trophy was first awarded in 2002 and with Egypt winning it indefinitely after winning their unprecedented third consecutive title in 2010.
As of 2013, the tournament was switched to being held in odd-numbered years so as not to clash with the FIFA World Cup.
1950s–60s: Origin and early yearsThe origin of the African Nations Cup dates from June 1956, when the creation of the Confederation of African Football was proposed during the third FIFA congress in Lisbon. There were immediate plans for a continental tournament to be held and, in February 1957, the first Africa Cup of Nations was held in Khartoum, Sudan. There was no qualification for this tournament, the field being made up of the four founding nations of CAF. South Africa's insistence on selecting only white players for their squad due to its apartheid policy led to its disqualification, and as a consequence Ethiopia were handed a bye straight to the final.
Hence, only two matches were played, with Egypt being crowned as the first continental champion after defeating hosts Sudan in the semi-final and Ethiopia in the final. Two years later Egypt hosted the second ANC in Cairo with the participation of the same three teams. Host and defending champions Egypt again won, after defeating Sudan.
The field grew to include nine teams for the third ANC in 1962 in Addis Ababa, and for the first time there was a qualification round to determine which four teams would play for the title. Host Ethiopia and reigning champion Egypt received automatic berths, and were joined in the final four by Nigeria and Tunisia. Egypt made its third consecutive final appearance, but it was Ethiopia that emerged as victors, after first beating Tunisia and then downing Egypt in extra time.
1960s: Ghanaian dominationIn 1963, Ghana made its first appearance as it hosted the event, and won the title after beating Sudan in the final. They repeated that as they became champions two years later in Tunisia—equalling Egypt as two-time winners—with a squad that included only two returning members from the 1963 team. In 1965, the CAF introduced a rule that limit the number of overseas players in each team to two. The rule persisted to 1982.
The 1968 competition's final tournament format expanded to include eight of the 22 teams entered in the preliminary rounds. The qualifying teams were distributed in two groups of four to play single round-robin tournaments, with the top two teams of each group advancing to semi-finals, a system that remained in use for the finals until 1992. The Democratic Republic of Congo won its first title, beating Ghana in the final. Starting with the 1968 tournament, the competition has been regularly held every two years in even numbered years. Ivory Coast forward Laurent Pokou led the 1968 and 1970 tournaments in scoring, with six and eight goals respectively, and his total of 14 goals remained the all-time record until 2008. Play was covered for television for the first time during the 1970 tournament in Sudan, as the hosts lifted the trophy after defeating Ghana—who were playing their fourth consecutive final.
1970s: A decade of championsSix different nations won titles from 1970 to 1980: Sudan, Congo-Brazzaville, Zaire, Morocco, Ghana, and Nigeria. Zaire's second title in the 1974 edition came after facing Zambia in the final. For the only time to date in the history of the competition, the match had to be replayed as the first contest between the two sides ended in a 2–2 draw after extra time. The final was re-staged two days later with Zaire winning 2–0. Forward Mulamba Ndaye scored all four of Zaire's goals in these two matches: he was also the top scorer of the tournament with nine goals, setting a single-tournament record that remains unmatched. Three months earlier, Zaire had become the first Sub-Saharan African nation to qualify to the FIFA World Cup. Morocco won their first title in the 1976 ANC held in Ethiopia and Ghana took its third championship in 1978, becoming the first nation to win three titles.
1980s: Cameroonian dominationBetween 1980 and 1990, Cameroon managed to reach the final of the Africa Cup three times in a row, winning the competition twice in 1984 and 1988 and losing once on penalties against Egypt in the 1986 edition, the other dominant team during this period was Algeria, along with their solid 1982 and decent 1986 World Cup appearances, the North African nation lost in the final against hosts Nigeria in the 1980 tournament allowing the super eagles to capture their first championship. After the 1980 edition, Algeria reached the semi finals of every edition except the 1986 cup until they eventually won the competition in 1990. Ghana's fourth continental title came in the 1982 cup tournament where they beat host Libya in the final. The match ended in a 1–1 draw after 120 minutes and Ghana won the penalty shootout to become champions.
1990s: The return of South AfricaIn 1990, Nigeria lost once again as they made their third final appearance in four tournaments, this time falling to host Algeria. The 1992 Cup of Nations expanded the number of final tournament participants to 12; the teams were divided into four groups of three, with the top two teams of each group advancing to quarter-finals. Ghanaian midfielder Abedi "Pele" Ayew, who scored three goals, was named the best player of the tournament after his contributions helped Ghana reach the final; he was, however, suspended for that match and Ghana lost to Ivory Coast in a penalty shootout that saw each side make 11 attempts to determine the winner. Ivory Coast set a record for the competition by holding each of their opponents scoreless in the six matches of the final tournament.
The 12-team, three-group format was used again two years later, where hosts Tunisia were humiliated by their first round elimination. Nigeria, who had just qualified to the World Cup for the first time in their history, won the tournament, beating Zambia, who a year before had been struck by disaster when most of their national squad died in a plane crash while traveling to play a 1994 World Cup qualification match. Nigerian forward Rashidi Yekini, who had led the 1992 tournament with four goals, repeated as the top scorer with five goals.
South Africa hosted the 20th ACN competition in 1996, marking their first ever appearance after a decades long ban was lifted with the end of apartheid in the country and a failed attempt to qualify in 1994. The number of final round participants in 1996 was expanded to the current 16, split into four groups. However, the actual number of teams playing in the final was only 15 as Nigeria withdrew from the tournament at the final moment for political reasons. Bafana Bafana won their first title on home soil, defeating Tunisia in the final.
The South Africans would reach the final again two years later in Burkina Faso, but were unable to defend their title, losing to Egypt who claimed their fourth cup.
2000s: Egypt's unprecedented trebleThe 2000 edition was hosted jointly by Ghana and Nigeria, who replaced the originally designated host Zimbabwe. Following a 2–2 draw after extra time in the final, Cameroon defeated Nigeria on penalty kicks. In 2002, Cameroon's Indomitable Lions made the second consecutive titles since Ghana had done it in the 1960s and after Egypt had done it before in 1957 and 1959. Again via penalty kicks, the Cameroonians beat first-time finalists Senegal, who also debuted in the World Cup later that year. Both finalists were eliminated in quarter finals two years later in Tunisia, where the hosts won their first title, beating Morocco 2–1 in the final. The 2006 tournament was also won by the hosts, Egypt, who reached a continental-record fifth title. Ahead of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations several European clubs called for a rethink of the tournament's schedule. As it takes place during the European season, players who are involved miss several matches for their clubs.
In January 2008, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that he wanted the tournament to be held in either June or July by 2016, to fit in the international calendar, although this would preclude many countries in central and west Africa from hosting the competition. The 2008 tournament was hosted by Ghana, and saw Egypt retain the trophy, winning their record-extending sixth tournament by defeating Cameroon 1–0 in the final.
2010s: Switch to odd years and expansionEgypt set a new record in the 2010 tournament that was hosted by Angola by winning their third consecutive title in an unprecedented achievement on the African level after defeating Ghana 1–0 in the final, retaining the gold-plated cup indefinitely and extending their record to 7 continental titles. Egypt became the first African nation to win three consecutive cups and joined Mexico, Argentina, and Iran who also won their continent cup 3 times in a row. On 31 January 2010, Egypt set a new African record, not being defeated for 19 consecutive Cup of Nations matches, since a 2–1 loss against Algeria in Tunisia in 2004, and a record 9 consecutive win streak.
In May 2010, it was announced that the tournament would be moved to odd-numbered years from 2013 in order to prevent the tournament from taking place in the same year as the World Cup. It also meant there were two tournaments within twelve months in January 2012 and January 2013. The change of FIFA Confederations Cup from a biennial to a quadrennial tournament, and the switching of the Africa Cup of Nations from even to odd-number years, meant that some previous Africa Cup of Nations champions such as Egypt, Zambia, and Ivory Coast were deprived from participating in the Confederations Cup tournament.
disrupted the tournament. All football activities in Liberia were suspended, and the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia was converted into an Ebola treatment unit. The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations was scheduled to be held in Morocco, but they refused to hold the tournament on the allotted dates due to concerns of the Ebola outbreak, so it was moved to Equatorial Guinea.
In July 2016, Total secured the rights to an eight-year sponsorship package to support 10 of CAF's principal competitions. This began with the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon which was renamed the "Total Africa Cup of Nations".
Under Ahmad Ahmad's presidency, there were discussions regarding further changes to the Africa Cup of Nations. In July 2017, two changes were proposed:
- Switch the competition from January to the Northern Hemisphere summer
- expansion from 16 to 24 teams
The prize money awarded to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations winner amounted to $4.5 million.
2020sMatch days 3 and 4 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, which was slated from 25 to 30 March 2020 were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TrophyThroughout the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, three different trophies have been awarded to the winners of the competition. The original trophy, made of silver, was the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, named after the first CAF president, Egyptian Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem. As the first winner of three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, Ghana obtained the right to permanently hold the trophy in 1978.
The second trophy was awarded from 1980 to 2000, and was named "Trophy of African Unity" or "African Unity Cup". It was given to CAF by the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa prior to the 1980 tournament and it was a cylindrical piece with the Olympic rings over a map of the continent engraved on it. It sat on a squared base and had stylized triangular handles. Cameroon won the Unity Cup indefinitely after they became three-time champions in 2000.
In 2001, the third trophy was revealed, a gold-plated cup designed and made in Italy. Cameroon, permanent holders of the previous trophy, were the first nation to be awarded the new trophy after they won the 2002 edition. Egypt won the gold-plated cup indefinitely after they became three-time champions in 2010. Unlike previous winners who would have then taken the trophy home, Egypt were presented with a special full size replica that they were allowed to keep. First and second time winners usually get a smaller sized replica for their trophy cabinets.
- a.e.t.: after extra time
- p: after penalty shoot-out
- TBD: to be determined
2 as Congo-Kinshasa
3 as Zaire
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