What is the African Cup of Nations?
The CAF, or the Confederation of African Football, first created the African Cup of Nations in 1956. The first tournament took place the next year in 1957. CAF is known as the governing body of African Football. It consists of an executive committee and a general assembly, similar to FIFA. This governing body, however, covers only nations in Africa. It consists of 54 member associations, and its secretariat is based in Egypt.
The first African Cup of Nations took place in Sudan, with Egypt winning the tournament. Since then, the tournament has taken place bi-annually, despite setbacks in location and teams almost every year. The tournament continues nonetheless out of the love for the sport. In the beginning, only a handful of teams competed; over the years the numbers have risen to 54 nations. In the past few years, teams such as Cameroon, Egypt, Gabon, and Equatorial New Guinea have been champions. In 1991, the CAF created the Women's Cup of Nations, which has occurred in the years between the men's cup. Champions include Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, and South Africa.
Competing in the Tournament
There are six zones that the CAF has created from which teams can qualify for the cup. They include the Northern Zone, Zone West A, Zone West B, Central Zone, Central-East Zone, and the Southern Zone. Each zone has several teams that compete for spots in the tournament.
The host nation will automatically qualify for the tournament, while the rest of the nations compete in a qualification stage. Based on the performance here and in past tournaments, teams will be seeded and placed into groups. For the most recent competition, the first 45 teams moved to the group stage, while the bottom 45 through 51 went to a preliminary qualification stage. At the end of the qualifiers, there are 24 teams that go into the final stage of the tournament.
To win the tournament, teams must first compete in the group stage and then the knockout stage. The group stage consists of six groups of four teams. After all the teams play one another, the top two teams from each group and the top four third place teams move on to the knockout stage.
The knockout stage consists of the round of sixteen. During this, any team that loses will be out of the tournament. It is in this stage that games can go to penalty kicks. After the round of 16, half of the teams advance and so on until the championship game. There will also be a game played for third place. The winner of the tournament receives a gold plated trophy. This trophy was implemented in 2002, with early trophies being silver. After winning three times in a row, Egypt received their own replicas of the trophy for them to keep, rather than having to move the trophy every year. For 2019, the prize money for the winning team will be $5.4 million.