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The African Cup of Nations 2019 is about to start. Friday 21 June brings the opening fixture featuring record seven time winners and tournament hosts Egypt against Zimbabwe.
Barça B right back Moussa Wagué, appearing for Senegal, is our sole representative at the tournament this year, but there are plenty of reason to keep an eye on what is happening between now and the final on July 19.
1. Bigger than ever
The 24 teams competing for the trophy, plus the number of times they have won it in brackets, are: Egypt (7), DR Congo (2), Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria (3), Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi, Senegal, Algeria (1), Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco (1), Ivory Coast, South Africa (1), Namibia, Tunisia (1), Mali, Mauritania, Angola, Cameroon (5), Ghana (4), Benin and Guinea Bissau.
Madagascar, Burundi and Mauritania are all appearing for the first time while high profile absentees include Zambia and Burkina Faso.
2. Moussa Wagué, our only player
The Barça B right back, who has featured in some first team games this year, is going to the ACN for the first time although big tournaments are nothing new to him. For instance, he was part of the Senegal team that came fourth at the World U20 Cup in New Zealand two years ago, and was at the senior World Cup in Russia last summer, scoring against Japan to become the youngest African ever to find the net in the competition (19 years, 8 months and 20 days).
Senegal have never won the title before, but are viewed by many, Wagué included, as the favourites to do it this time. Managed by Aliou Cissé the team has some big names in European club football, including, Sadio Mané of Liverpool, Catalonia born Keita Baldé who was once at La Masia and now plays for Inter, and Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli.
3. Barça’s history at the competition
Since it was first contested in 1957, only six FC Barcelona have appeared. Wagué follows on from Emmanuel Amunike (Nigeria), Gbenga Okunowo (Nigeria), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), who holds the tournament’s all-time record with 18 goals, Yaya Touré (Ivory Coast) and Seydou Keita (Mali).
However, there have been others who appeared in the tournament before or after their time at Barça, such as Alex Song (Nigeria) and goalkeeper André Onana (Cameroon).
4. Emmanuel Amunike in charge of Tanzania
The Barça star from 1996 to 2000 and who played at Nigeria’s first ever World Cup in 1994, is now in charge of Tanzania. The Taifa Stars are appearing at the competition for only the second time, and the first since 1980, after an epic 3-0 defeat of top seed Uganda meant they edged out Lesotho and Cape Verde in qualification.
5. Many changes
This is the first time that the competition has been moved from its traditional January/February slot, thus avoiding disruption to club schedules. And with that comes expansion, with 24 teams taking part for the first time at an event was originally awarded to Cameroon. But due to behind-schedule progress with the infrastructure, a late decision was made to switch to Egypt, where the competition is also kicking off a week later than originally planned due to Ramadan.
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