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Here's everything you need to know about the African Cup of Nations

We’ve put together a bluffer’s guide to this month’s tournament, which begins tomorrow. You’re welcome.

Niger fans.
Niger fans.
Image: Francois Mori/AP/Press Association Images

What is the AFCON?

The African Cup of Nations, also referred to as AFCON or CAN (Coupe d’Afrique des Nations). It’s the continent’s top international football competition and is held every two years. This tournament, which begins tomorrow, marks the 29th edition since it began in 1957. Although it was originally due to be hosted by Libya, a decision was made to switch it to South Africa due to safety concerns.

But wasn’t there one just last year?

There was indeed. The 2012 tournament, held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, witnessed a major upset as pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast lost out to Zambia on penalties in the final. What made it all the more special was the fact that the Copper Bullets were winning their first ever title in Libreville – the scene where a plane crashed and killed 19 members of their squad in 1993. So it won’t clash with the World Cup in the future, organisers decided to switch it to odd years, which explains why there are two tournaments back-to-back.

The Zambian players lift the trophy. Credit: Sydney Mahlangu/Sports Inc/Press Association Images

Group A

  • Angola
  • Cape Verde Islands
  • Morocco
  • South Africa

Group B

  • Congo DR
  • Ghana
  • Mali
  • Niger

Group C

  • Burkina Faso
  • Ethiopia
  • Nigeria
  • Zambia

Group D

  • Algeria
  • Ivory Coast
  • Togo
  • Tunisia

Can Zambia do it again?

If they are to succeed for a second time, it will mean upsetting the odds again. Of the 14 nations to win the AFCON, only three have managed to lift consecutive titles - Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon.

Getting through the group stages shouldn't cause too much of a problem as, although they face the returning Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia are seen as rank outsiders. If they progress, Zambia face one of the Group D teams in the quarter-finals, which could prove testing, however.

Pressure? There is no pressure on me," manager Herve Renard told AFP. "Please do not create pressure on me when none exists. I just want to participate in a fantastic tournament and enjoy myself.

"We are confident. We did it in 2012 when no one gave us a chance. Do not bet too much money against us repeating the feat."

The main challengers will be...

Heavyweights the Ivory Coast (13/8) and Ghana (6/1) will fancy their chances, while Nigeria (8/1), under Stephen Keshi will be desperate to make up for being absent last time out. Just below them  reigning champions Zambia (12/1), Morocco (12/1) and Mali (14/1) could all cause a threat. But keep an eye out for dark horses Algeria (14/1) while although they are short on quality South Africa (9/1) do have home advantage.

Here are five players to watch out for:

Here's everything you need to know about the African Cup of Nations
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  • Wilfried Bony (Ivory Coast)

  • Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria)

  • Younes Belhanda (Morocco)

  • Ryan Mendes (Cape Verde)

  • Christian Atsu (South Africa)

Who is representing the Premier League?

Victor Moses and Jon Obi Mikel (Nigeria), Yaya and Kolo Toure, Gervinho, Cheick Tiote and Arouna Kone (Ivory Coast), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Karim El Ahmadi and Oussama Assaïdi (Morocco), Samba Diakite and Modibo Maiga (Mali), Youssouf Mulumbu (Congo DR), Jonas Sakuwaha (Southampton).

The opening game is:

  • South Africa v Cape Verde Islands, tomorrow (4pm)

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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