Everything you need to know about the AFCON

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African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is CAF’s international association football competition in Africa. The first edition played with only three participants in 1957. Since the latest format change in 2017, 54 nations compete for 24 places in the qualifications phase for the tournament held every two years.

By Happiraphael – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=119263049

Senegal are the defending champions. The next edition will be played in Ivory Coast from 13 January – 11 February 2024.

Previous AFCON Winners

Egypt have won the most AFCON titles, with 7 wins in total. The table below shows the number of times each team has won the AFCON.

TeamWinners
Egypt7 (1957, 19591, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010)
Cameroon5 (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017)
Ghana4 (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)
Nigeria3 (1980, 1994, 2013)
Ivory Coast2 (1992, 2015)
Algeria2 (1990, 2019)
DR Congo2 (1968, 1974)
Zambia1 (2012)
Tunisia1 (2004)
Sudan1 (1970)
Senegal1 (2021)
Ethiopia1 (1962)
Morocco1 (1976)
South Africa1 (1996)
Congo1 (1972)

 

AFCON Tournament History

1957 

Host: Sudan, Champions: Egypt

With South Africa’s late withdrawal, only three nations take place in the inaugural tournament. Hosts Sudan failed at the first hurdle as Egypt won both of the tournament’s games. In the historic final, Ad-Diba’s four-goal salvo defeated Ethiopia, who had a forfeit win in the semi-final.

1959 

Host: United Arab Republic, Champions: United Arab Republic

The same three teams once again competed in the second edition of the competition. The United Arab Republic, a sovereign union between Egypt and Syria, once again beat both opponents to finish top with the format changed to round-robin. Mahmoud El-Gohary, who scored a hattrick in the curtain-raiser against Ethiopia, finished top-scorer.

1962

Host: Ethiopia, Champions: Ethiopia

For the first time in AFCON, there was a qualification process for two semi-final places to accompany hosts Ethiopia and defending champions United Arab Republic (Egypt). Ethiopia, who didn’t score a goal in the previous two editions, won both the semis and final by the same scoreline 4-2 to lift the trophy on home soil. 

Mengistu Worku and Badawi Abdel Fattah, who both scored a brace in the final, finished joint-top scorers. To this day, it has the highest goals-per-game average in AFCON history.

1963

Host: Ghana, Champions: Ghana

Once again, the hosts won the African Cup. The participants grow into 6 teams with hosts Ghana and returnee Sudan face in the final at Accra after topping their respective groups.

This one and the previous edition are the only tournaments with more than four goals per game. Hasan El-Shazly finished top-scorer from third-placed United Arab Republic.

1965

Host: Tunisia, Champions: Ghana

Again six teams competed with the first phase seeing them split into two groups of three. Ghana repeated Egypt’s feat of winning the competition back-to-back and on foreign soil. 

In the final tournament held in an odd-numbered year before 2013, Ghana beat host Tunisia after extra-time. With three goals each, three players shared the top-scorer accolade including Osei Kofi, who was selected Best Player.

1968

Host: Ethiopia, Champions: Congo-Kinshasa

The first tournament with eight participants as CAF also decided to hold the competition once every two years starting from here. Ghana once again reached the final, but there was a new champion in the form of Congo-Kinshasa.

Ivory Coast’s striker Laurent Pokou, who is second to Samuel Eto’o in the all-time chart, finished top-scorer with six goals.

1970

Host: Sudan, Champions: Sudan

Despite a fourth successive final appearance by Ghana, Sudan, the remaining founder yet to lift the trophy, won it in Khartoum. 

Pokou once again finished top-scorer, with five of his eight goals netted in Ivory Coast’s 6-1 group stage win against Ethiopia.

1972

Host: Cameroon, Champions: Congo

Ethiopia was the only nation to participate in every edition until this point, but the 1962 champions failed to qualify like the inaugural winners Egypt. As a result, there were four debutants in the tournament staged in two cities.

People’s Republic of Congo won its first championship in what was only their second participation. Fantamady Keita finished top-scorer from the finalists Mali.

1974

Host: Egypt, Champions: Zaire

Zaire, who won the 1968 edition as Congo-Kinshasa, lifted the cup after the only final in the tournament’s history that needed a replay. Zaire and Zambia had to play two days later after the first final ended 2-2.

Ndaye Mulamba, who scored twice in both of these games, finished top-scorer with 9 goals, the highest so far in a single tournament.

1976

Host: Ethiopia, Champions: Morocco

The tenth edition introduced a new format, although there were still eight teams. The top four teams from the first group stage played in another round-robin phase. As such, there was no specific game as the 1976 AFCON Final.

Morocco won its first title after a late draw against Guinea saw them finish top with five points. Guinea’s Mamadou Aliou Keita finished top-scorer with four goals.

1978

Host: Ghana, Champions: Ghana

The repeat of the fourth AFCON. Ghana won it on home soil to become the first nation with three titles to its name. The format reversed into the semi-final format with Ghana beating Uganda 2-0 in the final.

Just like the fifth edition, three players finished top with only three goals. Ghanaian midfielder Karim Abdul Razak was selected as the player of the tournament.

1980

Host: Nigeria, Champions: Nigeria

Once again, the hosts ended up lifting the trophy in the final. Nigeria clinched their first championship with a 3-0 success over Algeria. 

Segun Odegbami and Khalid Labied –  with two goals in the final and third-placed playoff, respectively – finished joint top-scorers. Part of Nigeria’s defense which only conceded once in five games, Christian Chukwu was the Best Player of the tournament.

1982

Host: Libya, Champions: Ghana

Ghana beat hosts Libya in the first final which went into a penalty shootout. It was the fourth tile for the West African giants.

As of now, it is the last time Ghana won the African Cup. George Alhassan, who scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the final, finished top scorer.

1984

Host: Ivory Coast, Champions: Cameroon

Cameroon, who will grow in influence in the next decades, won its first title by beating neighbors Nigeria 3-1 in the final.

Taher Abouzeid finished top of the scoring charts from fourth-placed Egypt with four goals. Cameroon’s captain Theophile Abega, who had three goals, was the winner of the Best Player award.

1986

Host: Egypt, Champions: Egypt

The first title for Egypt since their victory in the second edition. And, once again, it’s as the tournament’s hosts. They beat Cameroon on penalties in the final staged at the iconic Cairo International Stadium.

Roger Milla, who later scored in the World Cup at the age of 42, won both the top-scorer and Best Player awards.

1988

Host: Morocco, Champions: Cameroon

Morocco had to step in to organize the competition after CAF had issues with Zambia and Tunisia. Cameroon won its second championship by beating Nigeria in the final again.

With only 23 goals in 16 games, this edition has the fewest goals-per-game average in AFCON history. Roger Milla, who scored joint-most two goals in the tournament, retains his Best Player accolade.

1990

Host: Algeria, Champions: Algeria

First-time hosts Algeria won the competition for the first time. Nigeria once again lost an African Cup final.

Contrary to the previous edition, four Algerian players scored multiple goals including top-scorer Djamel Menad and Player of the Tournament Rabah Madjer.

1992

Host: Senegal, Champions: Ivory Coast

The 18th edition saw the competition expanded to twelve teams and the knockout stage started with quarter-finals. Ivory Coast won its first championship after a penalty shootout win against Ghana in which all the players participated, a first in a major international tournament.

Alain Gouamene won the Best Goalkeeper award while the Best Player (Ghana’s Abedi Pele) and top-scorer (Nigeria’s Rashidi Yekini) went into the star names of the tournament.

1994

Host: Tunisia, Champions: Nigeria

A year earlier, Zambia lost eighteen players and several staff members following an air disaster. Yet they went all the way into the final, where they were beaten by Nigeria.

Yekini, who was also picked the best player of the tournament, once again finished top-scorer, although it was his strike partnership Emmanuel Amuneke who scored both Nigeria’s goals in the 2-1 final win.

1996

Host: South Africa, Champions: South Africa

It was supposed to be the first AFCON with 16 teams, but defending champions Nigeria withdrew at the eleventh hour for political reasons. In the final attended by then-president Nelson Mandela, South Africa celebrated their new era with a first African championship.

Kalusha Bwalya, who scored all his five goals in the group stage, finished as both the top-scorer and player of the tournament.

1998

Host: Burkina Faso, Champions: Egypt

South Africa reached the final again, but Egypt secured their fourth title with two goals in the first 13 minutes at Ouagadougou.

Hossam Hassan, who opened the score in the final, and Benni McCarthy, the winner of the Best Player award, finished top of the scoring chart with 7 goals.

2000

Host: Ghana and Nigeria, Champions: Cameroon

For the first time in the championship’s history, it was jointly hosted after Zimbabwe revoked the hosting right. Nigeria had a home advantage and they forced the game to go to penalties after a two-goal half-time deficit, but Cameroon prevailed to beat Nigeria in the AFCON final for the third time.

Arsenal-bound right-back Lauren was picked as the player of the tournament while South Africa’s Shaun Bartlett topped the scoring list.

2002

Host: Mali, Champions: Cameroon

Cameroon once again lifted the trophy after a penalty shootout win in the final, this time against Senegal after a goalless draw, with Aliou Cisse (remember the name) missing the final spot-kick.

Defensive workhorse Rigobert Song, who also missed his kick in the shootout, was picked player of the tournament.

2004

Host: Tunisia, Champions: Tunisia

In the battle of North African nations, hosts Tunisia beat Morocco in the final held in Tunis. Brazilian-born Francileudo Santos was the big factor as he finished joint top-scorer with four goals.

Jay-Jay Okocha, who was one of the three other players to net four goals, once again came short of helping Nigeria to glory, but he was picked as player of the tournament.

2006

Host: Egypt, Champions: Egypt

Just like the previous edition, the hosts were the winners. And, once again, it’s a North African nation. Egypt’s fifth championship was realized after a penalty shootout win against Ivory Coast.

Ahmed Hassan won the player of the tournament while Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o finished top-scorer with all his five goals netted in the group stage.

2008

Host: Ghana, Champions: Egypt

Egypt won their sixth championship with half of them achieved over this decade. Mohamed Aboutrika scored the all-important goal in the final against Cameroon 15 minutes from time.

Abourika’s midfield partner Hosny Abd Rabo won the player of the tournament whereas Eto’o repeated his feat of finishing the scoring chart with five group stage goals.

2010

Host: Angola, Champions: Egypt

And, then, it’s three. In the tournament shadowed by Togo’s withdrawal because of a terrorist attack on their bus, Egypt won an unprecedented third championship in a row.

Top-scorer Gedo netted the winner in the 85th minute against Ghana in the final. Ahmed Hassan won player of the tournament for the second time.

2012

Host: Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Champions: Zambia

With the three-time defending champions Egypt and fellow giants Cameroon and Nigeria failing to qualify, Zambia took their opportunity to shine in a fairytale ending. It was near Libreville, the host city for the final against Ivory Coast, that Zambia lost members of the national team in 1993.

Ivory Coast lost the title on a penalty shootout despite no goals conceded in the tournament. Zambia’s skipper Christopher Katongo, who was one of the seven top scorers with three goals, was picked as the tournament’s best player.

2013

Host: South Africa, Champions: Nigeria

With the shift to odd-numbered years, CAF hosted back-to-back tournaments. Nigeria won its third AFCON with a narrow victory against surprise package Burkina Faso in the final.

Emmanuel Emenike and Mubarak Wakaso finished ahead in the scoring rank while Burkinabe winger Jonathan Pitroipa was voted player of the tournament.

2015

Host: Equatorial Guinea, Champions: Ivory Coast

After losing two finals in a penalty shootout in the past decade, Ivory Coast finally salvaged their second championship by beating Ghana on … a penalty shootout. Herve Renard, who was on Zambia’s bench in the 2011 final was Ivory Coast’s coach for this one.

In a tournament that didn’t have the presence of reigning champions Nigeria, five players scored three goals. Ghanaian midfielder Christian Atsu was the player of the tournament.

2017

Host: Gabon, Champions: Cameroon

In AFCON’s 60th anniversary, Cameroon beat inaugural champions Egypt 2-1 in the final. Hosts Gabon and reigning champions Ivory Coast were eliminated in the group stage.

DRC’s Junior Kabananga was the top-scorer with three goals. Christian Bassogog won the Best Player award.

2019

Host: Egypt, Champions: Algeria

This tournament was a breakthrough on two fronts. It was the first competition to accept 24 teams. And it breaks the January/February cycle for the first time to be hosted in June and July.

Algeria won their second title by defeating Senegal with Qatar-based Baghdad Bounedjah’s goal in the 2nd minute. Ismael Bennacer and Odion Ighalo were the best player and top-scorer, respectively.

2021

Host: Cameroon, Champions: Senegal

Having stripped of the hosting rights in 2019, Cameroon was given another opportunity by CAF. However, the tournament had to be postponed for exactly a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senegal, coached by that man Aliou Cisse and with the player of the tournament Sadio Mane, won AFCON for the first time defeating seven-time champions Egypt on penalties. With eight goals, Vincent Aboubakar finished a goal short of equalling the single tournament record. 

AFCON 2024

Group A

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Ivory Coast 25th2-time champions  2021, R16Jean-Louis Gassethosts
Nigeria 20th3-time champions2021, R16Jose PeseiroGolden generation of strikers
Equatorial Guinea  4thFourth-place (2015)2021, QFJuan MichaTwo-time hosts
Guinea-Bissau  4thGroup stage2021, GSBaciro CandeCande second long-serving coach

 

Group B

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Egypt 26th7-time champions  2021, Runners-upRui VitoriaRecord champions
Ghana 24th4-time champions2021, GSChris Hughton42-year title drought
Cape Verde  4thQuarter-final (2013)2021, R16BubistaFirst app: 2013
Mozambique  5thGroup stage2010, GSChiquinho CandeLongest absence from AFCON

 

Group C

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Senegal 17thChampions  (2021)2021, ChampionsAliou CisseReigning champions
Cameroon 21th5-time champions2021, 3rd-placeRigobert SongLast to qualify
Guinea 14thRunners-up (1976)2021, R16Kaba DiawaraSerhou Guirassy’s first tournament
Gambia 2ndQuarter-final (2021)2021, QFTom SaintfietReached QF in first app (2021)

 

Group D

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Algeria 20th2-time champions  2021, GSDjamel BelmadiWon 2019 AFCON with Belmadi
Burkina Faso 13thRunners-up (2019)2021, SFHubert VeludSuccessive semi-final apps
Mauritania  3rdGroup stage2021, GSAmir AbdouThird successive apps
Angola  9th2-times QF2019, GSPedro GoncalvesLast 3 apps saw GS exit

 

Group E

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Tunisia 21thChampions (2004)2021, QFJalel Kadri4 of the last 5 coaches Tunisians
Mali 13thRunners-up (1972)2021, R16Eric ChelleBest resullt in their first tournament
South Africa 11thChampions (1996)2019, QFHugo BroosWon their first tournament in 1996
Namibia  4thGroup stage2019, GSCollin BenjaminHuge underdogs

 

Group F

TeamAppsBest resultLast resultCoachNote
Morocco 19thChampions (1976)  2021, QFWalid RegraguiWorld Cup semi-finalists
DR Congo 20th2-time champions2019, R16Sebastien DesabreFifth successive apps
Zambia 18thChampions (2012)  2015, GSAvram GrantFailed to progress GS since 2012 win
Tanzania  3rdGroup stage2019, GSAdel AmroucheYet to win AFCON game