Everton have just the one representative at the Africa Cup of Nations, and no players at the Asia Cup, with Idrissa Gana Gueye playing for Senegal. The midfielder had been recovering from a minor injury and missed the Blues’ last four games before the tournament began.
Abdoulaye Doucoure had been called up for the tournament by Mali but chose to stay at Everton instead, but the key midfielder for Sean Dyche’s side is currently out injured with a hamstring ailment.
We take a quick look here at each of the groups at AFCON and how the teams finished the group stages of the tournament.
Group Stages Recap
Equatorial Guinea pulled off a surprise to top the group ahead of one of tournament favourites Nigeria on goal difference, with hosts Ivory Coast making it through as one of the four best third-placed sides.
Another surprising result as unheralded Cape Verde topped the group ahead of giants Egypt. Ghana failed to impress and crashed out of the tournament finishing third while Mozambique ended up last also with two points.
Group C -
As expected, defending champions Senegal cruised through as the only side in the tournament to win all three of their group games. They will be joined by Cameroon and Guinea, with Gambia exiting winless.
Gana featured in the last two games as a second half substitute in both, laying on an assist in the 3-1 beating of Cameroon. Dyche will not be displeased with the minimal usage of the defensive midfielder given the injury crisis going on at Finch Farm.
Group D -
A big surprise here as continental powerhouses Algeria not only failed to make it through, they finished at the bottom of the group having mustered just two draws. Angola topped the group with Burkina Faso and Mauritania joining them in the knockouts.
Group E -
Another North African giant slain in this group with Tunisia left holding the wooden spoon as Mali won the group and go into the Round of 16 with South Africa and Namibia.
Group F -
Not all the continent’s best teams were bad though, with Morocco restoring some Sahel pride winning their group. Democratic Republic of Congo finished second and are through to the next round while Zambia and bottom side Tanzania head home.
Knockout Rounds Preview
AFCON: Rd of 16 Jan 27-30, Quarters Feb 2-3, Semis Feb 7, Final Feb 11
Asia Cup: Rd of 16 Jan 28-31, Quarters Feb 2-3, Semis Feb 6-7, Final Feb 10
Senegal face a difficult Round of 16 clash against hosts Ivory Coast who have been less than impressive and wracked with internal strife. They sacked their coach after finishing third in Group A, not anticipating they would make it to the next round, but that is exactly what happened as they sneaked into the top four third-placed sides when all was said and done.
It will certainly be a surprise if the Lions of Teranga are eliminated before the semis, which means it’s unlikely Gana is back at Finch Farm until the second week of February.
Everton’s Next Opponents and Missing Players
Here are the Toffees’ next few games for the duration of the two continental competitions -
Jan 27: FA Cup Fourth Round vs Luton Town - The Hatters are missing fullback Issa Kabore who is in action for Burkina Faso.
Jan 30: Premier League Matchday 22 at Fulham - Marco Silva is missing the trio of Fode Ballo-Toure (Senegal), Calvin Bassey and former Blue Alex Iwobi who are playing for Nigeria. The Super Eagles have been less than inspiring so far, and take on traditional rivals Cameroon on Saturday. In the unlikely event that Nigeria do go out, the pair of Bassey and Iwobi could be available for Tuesday’s game at Craven Cottage.
Feb 3: Premier League Matchday 23 vs Tottenham - Spurs have midfielders Pape Matar Sarr (Senegal) and Yves Bissouma (Mali) and key forward Son Heung-min also out with the latter at the Asia Cup. South Korea play continental powerhouses Saudi Arabia on Tuesday Jan 30th, and if they go out, the forward will be racing against time to be back for Saturday.
Feb 10: Premier League Matchday 24 at Manchester City - Pep Guardiola’s side have no players at either AFCON or the Asia Cup. Kevin De Bruyne is on his way back to full fitness and Erling Haaland is expected to be back for this game too.
Everton’s Relegation Rivals and Missing Players
We take a quick look at some of the teams that are near the Blues around the bottom of the Premier League table, and who they are missing during this crucial period of the year.
Sheffield United: Ismaila Coulibaly with Mali will likely be coming up against Senegal in the quarter finals while Anis Ben Slimane should be returning to England with Tunisia now eliminated.
Burnley: No players in continental competitions.
Nottingham Forest: Forest have a massive squad, and are missing half a dozen players, though they could get a number of them back within a week - Moussa Niakhate and Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Serge Aurier, Willy Boly and Ibrahim Sangare (Ivory Coast), and Ola Aina (Nigeria).
Crystal Palace: The Eagles are struggling and within touching distance of the Blues, but while they are missing midfielder Cheick Doucoure away with Mali, they will be getting their key forward Jordan Ayew back after Ghana embarrassingly faltered at the first hurdle.