The Africa Cup of Nations, the continent’s biggest footballing spectacle, is well underway after kicking off on the 21st of July at the home of the record champions Egypt.
The group stages concluded with all pre-tournament favourites making it through to the knockout stages and with the business end of the tournament approaching, managers will be looking to fine-tune their squads in order to get their hands on African football’s biggest prize.
24 teams entered the group stages and 16 of those made it through to the knockout stages. The top two teams from each of the six groups were guaranteed qualification and four best third-placed teams joined them in the Round of 16.
Although most of the big teams sealed qualification, it wasn’t all plain-sailing as some of the minnows really gave the big boys a run for their money. Defending champions Cameroon, with Clarence Seedorf at the helm made it through with just one win in the bag and were made to wait until the final match-day to know their fate.
Benin, who have not won a single AFCON game in their entire history, made it past the group stages against all odds, finishing third in Group F.
The knockout stage of the competition is set to commence on the 5th of July, with Uganda set to go up against Senegal in Cairo. Hosts Egypt take on Bafana-Bafana and Nigeria’s mouth-watering clash against Cameroon is the most widely anticipated fixture at this stage of the tournament.
The fixture list you’ve all been waiting for.
Here’s how the tournament tree looks, with all round of 16 teams drawn.
As per the draw, Egypt and Senegal can only come up against each other in the final. With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane spearheading their respective nations, there’s every chance the Liverpool speedsters face each other for the prize of being crowned kings of the continent.
If one of Mane or Salah were to play a starring role in winning the AFCON, they could well be in contention for the Ballon d’Or, with Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk the top favourites currently.
The final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will be held at the Cairo International Stadium on the 19th of July.