The Africa Cup of Nations kicks off later today in Egypt, with the best and brightest footballing talent in the continent pitted against each other in the expanded version of the tournament which for the first time will have 24 contestants.
The hosts are also the most successful side in the history of the competition, having lifted the trophy a total of seven times ahead of Cameroon with five, and also the defending champions. Ghana have won the title four times and Nigeria thrice.
Cameroon were originally scheduled to host the tournament but failed to complete preparations in time and the competition was moved to Egypt, where the sides will have to deal with a sweltering summer.
Egypt will be feeling the pressure as hosts, having won the tournament the last two times they held it in 2006 and 1986 before that. They will be led by Mohamed Salah who will be looking to make up for a terrible outing last summer in the World Cup when they were bottom of Group A having lost all their games, including one against Saudi Arabia.
Despite being the top ranked African nation in the FIFA rankings system, Senegal have actually never won the tournament and will come to Egypt looking to prove a point. Everton’s Idrissa Gueye will reprise his midfield destroyer role in a strong lineup that includes his Merseyside rival Sadio Mane and one of the best defenders in the world Kalidou Koulibaly.
Nigeria have always been one of the most entertaining African sides to watch, and have proven themselves on the world stage in the World Cup as well. They are loaded with attacking talent, not the least of whom is a player Evertonians will be watching very keenly - Henry Onyekuru. A big tournament for him could seal the pathway to a work permit, and then force Marcel Brands to make a decision on what to do with him next season.
Ghana, Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Tunisia are all perennial entrants in the continental football showpiece and will pose challenges of their own as well.
The third Everton player at the tournament is Yannick Bolasie representing the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The top two sides in each group qualify for the knockout rounds, and will be joined the four best third-placed teams.
Group A: Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Group B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi
Group C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania
Group D: Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia
Group E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Angola
Group F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau
Group stage schedule
(all times local, GMT +2, EST +6, PST +9)
Group A: Egypt v Zimbabwe – Cairo International Stadium (10pm)
Group A: Democratic Republic of Congo v Uganda – Cairo Stadium (4:30pm)
Group B: Nigeria v Burundi – Alexandria Stadium (7pm)
Group B: Guinea v Madagascar – Alexandria Stadium (10pm)
Group D: Morocco v Namibia – Al Salam Stadium, Cairo (4:30pm)
Group C: Senegal v Tanzania – 30 June Stadium, Cairo (7pm)
Group C: Kenya v Algeria – 30 June Stadium, Cairo (10pm)
Group D: South Africa v Ivory Coast – Al Salam Stadium (4:30pm)
Group E: Tunisia v Angola – Suez Stadium (7pm)
Group E: Mauritania v Mali – Suez Stadium (10pm)
Group F: Cameroon v Guinea-Bissau – Ismailia Stadium (7pm)
Group F: Ghana v Benin – Ismailia Stadium (10pm)
Group B: Nigeria v Guinea – Alexandria Stadium (4:30pm)
Group A: Uganda v Zimbabwe – Cairo Stadium (7pm)
Group A: Egypt v DR Congo – Cairo Stadium (10pm)
Group B: Madagascar v Burundi – Alexandria Stadium (4:30pm)
Group C: Algeria v Senegal – 30 June Stadium (7pm)
Group C: Kenya v Tanzania – 30 June Stadium (10pm)
Group E: Tunisia v Mali – Suez Stadium (4:30pm)
Group D: Morocco v Ivory Coast – Al Salam Stadium (7pm)
Group D: Namibia v South Africa – Al Salam Stadium (10pm)
Group E: Mauritania v Angola – Suez Stadium (4:30pm)
Group F: Cameroon v Ghana – Ismailia Stadium (7pm)
Group F: Benin v Guinea-Bissau – Ismailia Stadium (10pm)
Group B: Madagascar v Nigeria, Alexandria Stadium (6pm)
Group B: Burundi v Guinea – Al Salam Stadium (6pm)
Group A: Egypt v Uganda – Cairo Stadium (9pm)
Group A: Zimbabwe v DR Congo – 30 June Stadium (9pm)
Group D: South Africa v Morocco – Al Salam Stadium (6pm)
Group D: Namibia v Ivory Coast – 30 June Stadium (6pm)
Group C: Kenya v Senegal – 30 June Stadium (9pm)
Group C: Tanzania v Algeria – Al Salam Stadium (9pm)
Group F: Benin v Cameroon – Ismailia Stadium (6pm)
Group F: Guinea-Bissau v Ghana, Suez Stadium (6pm)
Group E: Mauritania v Tunisia – Suez Stadium (9pm)
Group E: Angola v Mali – Ismailia Stadium (9pm)
TV & live streaming info
TV info: beIN Sports (USA), EuroSport & EuroSport 2 (UK), beIN Sports (Canada), DAZN, SuperSport, SL2G
Stream info: Fubo TV (USA, affiliate link)*, beIN Sports Connect (USA, Canada), Fanatiz (USA), EuroSport Player (UK), DAZN (Canada)
Broadcast info courtesy of LiveSoccerTV
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