Facts to know about the Africa Cup of Nations

As the days to the kickoff match for the 2023 TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations draw closer, there are quite some fascinating facts to know about the continent’s highly revered football tournament.

The tournament which will start on January 13, 2024, with the opening match between the host country, Cote d’Ivoire, and Group A opponent, Guinea-Bissau, will end on February 11, 2024.

In this piece, PUNCH Online highlights some facts about the AFCON as shared by CAFOnline.com:

  • The first AFCON tournament took place in Sudan in 1957. Only three countries, hosts Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, took part in that first tournament. There was no qualifying competition.
  • South Africa was also invited to the first Africa Cup of Nations tournament in 1957 but their invitation was later withdrawn as a result of the country’s apartheid laws.
  • Egypt defeated hosts Sudan in the first game played at the AFCON winning 2-1 on 10th January 1957.
  • Raafat Attia scored the first goal at an AFCON tournament when he opened the scoring for Egypt in their 2-1 semi-final win over hosts Sudan in 1957.
  • Egypt defeated Ethiopia 4-0 in the final to win the first AFCON tournament in 1957.
  • Egypt won the first two AFCON tournaments in 1957 and 1959 while they were runners-up in 1962, losing to hosts Ethiopia in the final.
  • Cote d’Ivoire is hosting the Africa Cup of Nations for a second time with the first hosted in 1984.
  • When Cote d’Ivoire hosted the AFCON in 1984, eight nations participated. Five of those countries – Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria will be joining the hosts again. Missing out are Malawi and Togo.
  • Egypt has won the most AFCON Titles (seven), followed by Cameroon (five), Ghana (four), Nigeria (three), and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast (two each).
  • Egypt and Ghana have both reached nine AFCON finals while Egypt has won seven, Ghana has four wins and Cameroon has played in seven finals winning five.
  • Cote d’Ivoire has appeared in four AFCON finals in 1992, 2006, 2012, and 2015, and in 480 minutes of play in the AFCON finals, they have failed to produce a single goal. They won on penalties after extra time in 1992 and 2015 and lost on penalties after extra time in 2006 and 2012 with all four games ending 0-0.
  • Cameroonian striker, Samuel Eto’o, is the leading overall Cup of Nations scorer, notching 18 goals in six tournaments between 2000 and 2010.
  • Egypt goalkeeper, Essam el Hadary, became the oldest player at 44 years and 21 days to feature in the tournament when he faced Cameroon in the 2017 final in Libreville as Egypt lost.
  • The only time the opening game of the AFCON ended 0-0 was when South Africa played out a 0-0 draw against Cape Verde in 2013.
  • The last host nation to reach the AFCON finals was Egypt who won the title on home soil in 2006.
  • Egypt has reached the AFCON final in five of the last six tournaments that the country participated in, winning in 2006, 2008, and 2010 while they were runners-up in 2017 and the 2021 edition. They only failed to do so in 2019 as hosts.
  • Four players – Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, Ghanaian duo Asamoah Gyan, as well as Andre Ayew, and Zambia’s Kalusha Bwalya, have scored in six AFCON tournaments. No player has scored in more editions of the competition than them.
  • The 2023 AFCON will be the 34th edition of the tournament since the first one held in 1957.
  • The AFCON has been expanded from a 16-team tournament which it has been since 1996 to a 24-team event in 2019.
  • This is the third edition to have 24 teams participating.
  • 16 players have scored 17 hat-tricks at the Africa Cup of Nations but none since Soufiane Alloudi scored three goals in Morocco’s 5-1 triumph over Namibia in the 2008 group stages.
  • Egypt has had five different players scoring six AFCON hat-tricks. No country has managed as many players to have scored a hat-trick at the tournament.
  • The first hat-trick at the AFCON was scored by Ad-Diba who scored all four of Egypt’s goals in their 4-0 triumph in the 1957 final victory over Ethiopia.
  • Egypt’s Hassan El-Shazly is the only player to have scored multiple hat-tricks at the Africa Cup of Nations, doing so in 1963 and 1970.
  • Egypt is the only team to have two players score a hat-trick in the same game. Hassan El-Shazly and Mohammed Hussein netted all their goals in a 6-3 win over Nigeria in a 1963 group-stage encounter.
  • Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan and Cameroon’s Rigobert Song hold the record for the most number of AFCON participations with each player having featured in eight final tournaments in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 – a record that could be tied by Ghana’s Andre Ayew at the next edition.
  • South Africa finished 1st (1996), 2nd (1998) and 3rd (2000) in the first three AFCON tournaments that they participated in.
  • Ghana’s Charles Gyamfi (1963–1965, 1982) and Egypt’s Hassan Shehata (Egypt 2006–2008-2010) are the only coaches to have won the title three times. Shehata is the only coach to have won the title in three successive tournaments.
  • Two persons – Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary (1959 as player, 1998 as coach) and Stephen Keshi of Nigeria (1994 as player, 2013 as coach) have won the AFCON as a player and coach.
  • French man Herve Renard is the only coach to have won the AFCON with two different countries; Zambia in 2012 and Cote d’Ivoire in 2015.
  • Senegal coach Aliou Cisse holds the unwanted record of losing in the final as both a player (2002) and coach (2019). He also now has won the tournament as a coach lifting the title with Senegal at the 2021 edition.
  • In 2004, Frenchman Roger Lemmere became the first coach to win the AFCON and the UEFA European Championship when he led Tunisia to the title. In 2000, he led France to the European Championships.
  • 44 different African nations have participated in the AFCON, with Comoros and Gambia being the debutants at the last edition in Cameroon.
  • Egypt (1957), Ghana (1963), and South Africa (1996) are the only teams to have won the tournament in their debut appearances.
  • Starting in 2008, Ghana has reached the AFCON semi-finals in six of the last eight tournaments and has been beaten finalists twice in that time, losing to Egypt in 2010 and Cote d’Ivoire in 2017.
  • Tunisia has qualified for their 16th successive AFCON tournament, a run started in 1994. No team has ever managed 16 successive qualifications.
  • Egypt has played more games at the AFCON than any other team (107), they have won more matches than any other team (60). Ghana has played 102 games and won 54. Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria will join the centenary club as they have currently played 99 and 97 games respectively at the finals.
  • Ndaye Mulamba scored nine goals for DR Congo at the 1974 AFCON. No player has managed more in a single tournament.
  • The name of the continental trophy has changed three times in history. The first trophy was the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy, followed by the African Unity trophy and then the Africa Cup of Nations.
  • Twelve former African champions will be making their way to Cote d’Ivoire for the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.
  • The top 15 ranked African teams have all qualified for the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.
  • Five Southern African teams have qualified for the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, the most the COSAFA region has had at a single final.
  • Each winner of the last 25 editions of the tournament from 1974 has qualified for the current edition of the finals. The last winner to miss out is the 1972 champions Congo.
  • Every finalist from the 1984 edition has reached the 2023 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. The last team to reach the final who have not qualified are 1982 runners-up Libya.


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