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AFCON - Football: All you need to know about AFCON

The new year brings with it an intriguing international tournament in the form of AFCON, otherwise known as the Africa Cup Of Nations.

Over the course of the next month, some of the brightest talents in world football from Mo Salah to Riyad Mahrez will be in action in Cameroon for their respective nations. Here is a look at all you need to know about the continental tournament.

What is AFCON?

The Africa Cup Of Nations is an international men's football tournament which takes place every two years.

While the first ever tournament back in 1957 featured only three teams, there are now 24 nations set to participate in this month's edition.

How does AFCON work?

There are a total of 24 teams competing in AFCON this year with Cameroon having qualified automatically as hosts and the other 23 teams having progressed through a qualification tournament. Qualification featured a total of 44 teams.

In the tournament, the nations are divided into six groups of four teams and will go on to play a single round robin.

The top two teams in each group along with the four highest-ranked third-placed teams will then advance to the knockout stage, which starts with the last 16.

Teams then progress to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final and there is also a third place match.

The groups for this year's tournament are as follows:

Group A - Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia
Group B - Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C - Morocco, Ghana, Gabon, Comoros
Group D - Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E - Algeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea
Group F - Tunisia, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania

Who won the last AFCON tournament?

Algeria are reigning AFCON champions, having won the tournament for only the second time in their history back in 2019.

They beat Senegal 1-0 in the final courtesy of a second-minute goal from Baghdad Bounedjah. The tournament was held in Egypt but the hosts could not progress beyond the round of 16.

When is AFCON?

Originally scheduled to take place in June and July 2021, the tournament was moved to early 2022 due to unfavourable climatic conditions during that period.

Instead AFCON 2021 will now start on 9th January and run to 6th February, when the final will take place.

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Where will AFCON be held?

Cameroon will be hosting this year's AFCON tournament with six venues set to be used across five cities.

Matches will take place in Douala, Yaounde, Garoua, Bafoussam and Limbe with both the opening match of the tournament between Cameroon and Burkina Faso and the final to be held at the Olembe Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, in Yaounde.

Who are the favourites for AFCON?

Runners-up in 2019, Senegal are 5/1 to win AFCON with the reigning champions Algeria priced at 6/1 to win their third title.

Egypt were unable to win AFCON on home soil three years ago but are 13/2 to come out on top this time around with Ivory Coast 7/1, Nigeria 8/1 and host nation Cameroon 8/1.

Lower down in the betting, Morocco are 10/1, Ghana are 12/1 and Tunisia are 14/1.

The tournament's big outsiders are Sierra Leone, who are 400/1 to win AFCON.

Which country has won AFCON the most?

Egypt are the most successful nation in the history of AFCON, having won the tournament on a record seven occasions. They won the first ever tournament back in 1957 and their last title came in 2010. Egypt have also finished as runners-up twice.

They are closely followed by this year's hosts Cameroon, who have five AFCON titles to their name, last winning the tournament in 2017 in Gabon.

How can I watch AFCON?

In the UK, Sky Sports will be showing all 52 matches set to take place in this year's AFCON tournament, including the opening match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso, which takes place at 4pm BST on 9th January.

The BBC will also be showing 10 live games from the tournament including two quarter-final matches, both semi-finals and the final.

Matches at the tournament can also be streamed via our Sports Live Streaming service.

Which players will be involved in AFCON?

The Confederation of African Football confirmed in December that players set to feature at AFCON could play for their clubs up until 3rd January but there will nonetheless be a number of top players absent from Europe's top divisions in the next month.

Premier League top scorer Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita of Liverpool are all set to feature for Egypt, Senegal and Guinea respectively, while Arsenal trio Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey will be in action for Gabon, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Other Premier League stars playing in the continental competition include Leicester's Kelechi Iheanacho, Man City's Riyad Mahrez, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy and Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha.

And there are players from outside the Premier League to keep an eye on such as Napoli and Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who is injured but has been included in his nation's squad, Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who will feature for Ivory Coast, and in-form striker Sebastien Haller, who plays for Ajax and Ivory Coast.

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