|Founded||10 February 1957|
|Number of teams||24|
|Related competitions||FIFA Confederations Cup|
|Current champions||Cameroon (5th title)|
|Most successful team(s)||Egypt (7 titles)|
|2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification|
Countdown sign during the 2010 edition of the tournament in Angola
The Total Africa Cup of Nations, officially CAN (French: Coupe d'Afrique des Nations), also referred to as African Cup of Nations, or AFCON, is the main international association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) 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 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 (16 teams were to compete in 1996 but Nigeria withdrew, reducing the field to 15, and the same happened with Togo's withdrawal in 2010), 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 (including when Egypt was known as the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961). 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.
1950s–60s: Origin and early years
The 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 African 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 (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa). 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 domination
In 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. Côte d'Ivoire 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 champions
Six different nations won titles from 1970 to 1980: Sudan, Congo-Brazzaville, Zaire, Morocco, Ghana, and Nigeria. Zaire's second title in the 1974 edition (they won their first as the Democratic Republic of Congo) 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 domination
In 1980, Nigeria hosted the event and beat Algeria to capture its first championship. Ghana's fourth continental title came in the 1982 cup tournament; they beat Algeria in the semi-finals in extra time, and faced 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. Cameroon won their first title two years later by beating Nigeria, and in the 1986 cup, they faced Egypt—absent from the final since 1962—with Egypt winning the title on penalty kicks. Cameroon reached its third consecutive final in the 1988 tournament and won their second championship by repeating their 1984 victory over Nigeria.
1990s: The return of South Africa
In 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 "Pelé" 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 Côte d'Ivoire in a penalty shootout that saw each side make 11 attempts to determine the winner. Côte d'Ivoire 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.
2000s: Egypt's unprecedented treble
The 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 (as these months occur during their wet season). 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.
Egypt 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 (including when Egypt was known as UAR between 1958 and 1961). 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 (co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) and January 2013 (hosted by South Africa). The change of FIFA Confederations Cup from a biennial to a quadrennial tournament, and the switching of the African Cup of Nations from even to odd-number years, meant that some previous African Cup of Nations champions such as Egypt, Zambia, and Ivory Coast (winners of the 2010, 2012, and 2015 tournaments respectively) were deprived from participating in the Confederations Cup tournament.
On 29 January 2011, Morocco won the bid to host the 2015 edition and Libya won the right to host the 2013 tournament. But due to the 2011 Libyan civil war, Libya and South Africa traded years with South Africa hosting in 2013 and Libya hosting in 2017, (though CAF ultimately decided to hold the 2017 tournament in Gabon due to ongoing fighting in Libya)
In 2012, Zambia won the final after a penalty shootout against Côte d'Ivoire. This drew increased media attention since the match took place in Gabon, only a few hundred meters from the crash site of the 1993 air disaster of their national team. The 2013 tournament was won by Nigeria, beating first time finalists Burkina Faso.
In 2014-15, the West African Ebola virus epidemic disrupted the tournament. The Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia, Liberia was converted into an Ebola treatment unit. On 24 July Liberia suspended all football activities. 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. The 2015 tournament was then moved to Equatorial Guinea.
- Switch the competition from January to Summer
- expansion from 16 to 24 teams (effective from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations)
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".
Throughout the history of the African 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 African 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, in an unprecedented achievement by winning three consecutive continental titles. 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.
- ^ South Africa were disqualified from the tournament due to the country's apartheid policies.
- ^ Only three teams participated.
- ^ There was no final match; the three teams played each other once, with the winner on points receiving the Cup. It finished: UAR 4pts, Sudan 2, Ethiopia 0.
- ^ There was no final match; the tournament was decided in a final group contested by the last four teams. It finished: Morocco 5pts, Guinea 4, Nigeria 3, Egypt 0.
- ^ The third-place match was tied 1–1 when the Tunisian team withdrew from the field in the 42nd minute in protest at the officiating. Nigeria were awarded a 2–0 walkover.
Performance by nation
As 2017 (31 edition)
|Tournaments||Matches||Goals Scored||Goals per match|
Champions by region
|UNAF (North Africa)||Egypt (7), Algeria (1), Morocco (1), Tunisia (1)||10 titles|
|WAFU (West Africa)||Ghana (4), Nigeria (3), Ivory Coast (2)||9 titles|
|UNIFFAC (Central Africa)||Cameroon (5), Congo DR (2), Congo (1)||8 titles|
|CECAFA (East Africa)||Ethiopia (1), Sudan (1)||2 titles|
|COSAFA (Southern Africa)||South Africa (1), Zambia (1)||2 titles|
Records and statistics
- "African Cup of Nations - How it all began". BBC Sport. BBC. 14 December 2001. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "Africa Cup of Nations moved to June and July and expanded to 24 teams". BBC. 20 July 2017.
- "Africa Cup of Nations Cup to move to odd-numbered years". BBC Sport. BBC. 16 May 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- BBC News (14 December 2001). "African Nations Cup - How it all began". BBC. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
- BBC Sport (16 January 2004). "The early years". BBC. Retrieved 9 March 2007.
- Macdonald, Tom (2010). The World Encyclopedia of Football:A Complete Guide to the Beautiful Game. 88-89 Black friars Road, London, UK: Hermes House. p. 61.
- Mark Gleeson (12 October 2004). "SA to meet Nigeria". BBC Sport. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
- "African Cup of Nations: 1980-2002". BBC. 16 January 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2007.
- BBC Sport (12 December 2007). "African Nations Cup - Possible changes". BBC. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 14 December 2007.
- "Blatter wants Cup of Nations move". BBC Sport. 18 January 2008. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2008.
- "Ghana 2008 all results". International Football Journalism. 10 February 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
- "Ghana 0-1 Egypt". BBC Sport. 31 January 2010. Archived from the original on 1 February 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2010.
- "Equatorial Guinea: Ahead of AU Summit, Government Curtails Political Rights, Disregards Social Needs". Press Release. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- BBC Sport. "South Africa replace Libya as 2013 Nations Cup hosts". BBC, 28 September 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- "Libya stripped of right to host 2017 Nations Cup". Eurosport. 2014-08-23. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
- Africa Cup Disrupted by Ebola Concerns
- Liberia football ground converted into Ebola treatment centre Archived 13 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- Ebola outbreak: Liberia suspends football
- 2015 Nations Cup: Equatorial Guinea to host tournament
- "Infantino in Rabat as CAF mulls 24 –team AFCON". Nigeria Football Ffederation. 18 July 2017.
- "Potential changes to Africa Cup of Nations high on agenda at key CAF symposium". Inside the Games. 17 July 2017.
- "Total to sponsor CAF competitions for the next eight years". Africa News. Africa News. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
- BBC News (25 September 2001). "Nations Cup trophy revealed". BBC. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
- FIFA.com (1 December 1997). "The Great Adventure of African Football". FIFA. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
- "16 March 1978 - The Eagles Of Carthage Get Grounded". www.thisdayinfootballhistory.blogspot.com. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- The Great Adventure of African Football[permanent dead link] (FIFA)
- History of African Nations cup since 1957 (Egypt State Information Service)
- African Cup of Nations & African Football News (Nigeria's Football Blog)
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