AFCON TRIVIA: Genesis of the African Cup of Nations

The Africa Cup of Nations (CAN), also referred to as African Cup of Nations (AFCON), is the main international association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The biennial African Cup of Nations tournament has been played since 1957 and is thereby older than the corresponding European championship. In February 1957, beneath the heat of the Nubian Desert in Sudan, few could have predicted the expansion of the African Nations Cup.

In the maiden edition 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 since then, the format has 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.

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 1971). Ghana and Cameroon have won four titles each. 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.

The tournament was initially held in odd-numbered years from 1957 to 1965; however in 1968 it was switched to even-numbered years and continued until 2013.

In 2013, the tournament was switched back to being held in odd-numbered years so as not to clash with the FIFA World Cup.

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