It’s that time of year again, the time when European club managers begin moaning and groaning; and you know it can only mean one thing, no, not injuries, but the biennial tournament: The African Cup of Nations; where many of the big clubs key players jet off for the month of January to play for their respective nations.
Three quarters of Premier League teams have fielded at least one African this season, but they will now have to do without them for up to six weeks.
Hardest hit in the by the tournament will be relegation strugglers Portsmouth who lose five players: Nadir Belhadj, Hassan Yebda, John Utaka, Nwankwo Kanu, and Aruna Dindane.
League leaders Chelsea will be without four of their key players such as: Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and John Obi Mikel. During their time away the players of Chelsea will miss 4 Premier league fixtures and 2 FA Cup ties. Although, luckily for the league leaders the fixture list has been kind to them – (Hull, Sunderland, Birmingham and Burnley)
However, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester United will not lose any players.
This year’s African Cup of Nations is taking place in Angola; as we draw even closer to the main event of the World Cup in South Africa in June. It is the 27th edition of the competition and it will run from the 10th January – 31st January.
First held in 1957 the tournament has been held every two years since 1968, and with talks of reform looming it might no longer be held during the European playing season, which would certainly please a lot of managers.
Egypt are the reigning champions having beaten Cameroon 1-0 in the 2008 Final; along with being the most successful team winning the competition on six occasions, they will also be aiming to make history by winning the competition for the third time in a row – a feat never been achieved before, it should certainly ease the pain of their failure to qualify for the World Cup.
The sixteen teams that have qualified for this year’s tournament which will be split into four groups, each team will play each other once, with the top two teams of the groups progressing to the quarter finals.
Here is how the groups look:
– Ivory Coast
– Burkina Faso
I’m not going to do an individual team by team preview because my knowledge of the African nations is not world class by any means. However, I am going to do a group by group preview and you can check back here for that tomorrow.