From Saturday 19 January 2013, the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will kick off in South Africa.
Originally, the tournament was to be held in Libya who won the hosting bid but, due to civil war, they since traded years with South Africa who were to host in 2017.
16 nations will take part in the tournament that concludes on 10 February 2013; 15 of which qualified from a total of 47 nations that entered the qualifiers while host South Africa had a through pass for being the hosts.
The biannual African showpiece, which has will now be contested in odd years beginning 2013, will be contested from four Groups. Host South Africa, Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco making up group ‘A’.
Ghana, Mali, Niger and Congo DR are in Group ‘B’ with Champions Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso making Group ‘C’. Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Algeria and Togo are all in the final Group ‘D’.
Of the 16 teams in South Africa, 11 are past champions. One team – Cape Verde is making their debut while five; Nigeria, Togo, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa made it to the tournament after missing out in 2012 when it was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
West Africa (WAFU) has the lion share of representation at the tournament with eight teams taking part; Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Cape Verde.
DR Congo is the only representative from Central Africa (UNIFFAC). Angola, Zambia and South Africa represent the Southern part of Africa (COSAFA). Ethiopia is CECAFA’s only representative while Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia represent North Africa (UNAF).
Ranking wise, only three nations ranked in the top ten of Africa’s ranking will miss the event; Libya (6), Gabon (7) and Central African Republic (8) . The current Africa top five; Ivory Coast (1 and 14 globally), Algeria (2, 22), Mali (3, 25), Ghana (4, 26) and Zambia (5, 29) will be competing. Nigeria, ninth in Africa and 52 globally is the sixth best ranked nation in South Africa.
Other ranks are taken up by; Tunisia (10, 53), Cape Verde Islands (15, 70), Morocco (17, 74), Togo (18, 77), Angola (19, 78), South Africa (22, 85), Burkina Faso (23, 92), Niger (25, 97). Congo DR (25, 101) and Ethiopia (31, 110) are the only two participants ranked in three digits globally that will be taking part.
Games will be played in five stadiums; the 94,700 capacity (FNB) National Stadium in Johannesburg, the 54,000 capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, the 48,000 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, the 42,000 Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg and at the 41,000 Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Group 'A' ties will be played in three venues; FNB Stadium, Moses Mabhida Stadium and Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. All Group 'B' ties will be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Group 'C' ties will be at the Mbombela Stadium and one final game at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Group 'D' tie will be at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium with a final one at Mbombela Stadium.
The opening game between South Africa and Caper Verde set for Saturday 19 January from 1900hrs local time will be played at teh FNB Stadium - the same venue that will host the final on 10 February at 2000hrs local time.
To oversee the 32 games at the event, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) appointed a total of 18 centre referees, one of whom is Kenya’s Sylvester Kirwa who made history in becoming the first Kenyan to the final centre referees list for an Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Beyond the centre referees, 21 assistant referees will be at the diadem, one of whom will be Kenyan Aden Marwa [Range].