• Since the tournament was instituted in 1957, it has been won 10 times by host countries — Ethiopia 1962, Ghana — 1963 & 1978, Sudan — 1970, Nigeria — 1980, Egypt — 1986 & 2006 Algeria — 1988, South Africa — 1996, and Tunisia — 2004.
Below is the story of the competition through the years as presented by EMMANUEL AMOAKO
1957 — THE SUDAN
WHEN The Sudan hosted the first Africa Cup of Nations, it was a miniature showpiece whose magnitude today could not have been predicted.
Only three teams played in that maiden edition — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — the founding members of CAF. South Africa should have been the fourth team but apartheid politics meant CAF rejected a non-multiracial team. Egypt, the country that had virtually been at the forefront at the World Cup and the Olympics, dominated the tournament.
The Pharaohs won the trophy by dominating Sudan and Ethiopia. The hosts lost 2-1 and Ethiopia lost 4-0 in the last match of the tournament. Egyptian hero, Ad-Diba, scored all the four goals.
1959 — EGYPT
The defending champions started where they left off two years earlier — Ethiopia lost 4-0 in the opening game. The tournament was contested by the same three teams.
This time, after Sudan had beaten Ethiopia by a lone goal, the stage was set for a tense final match with the Egyptians.
The Sudanese, by all means, aimed at avenging the humiliating defeat suffered in Khartoum. But the Egyptians were too strong for them. However, it was a grovelling encounter as Egypt had to wait until the 89th minute when Islam’s second goal edged out Sudan 2-1. For the second time, the Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem trophy stayed in Cairo.
1962 — ETHIOPIA
Significantly, the tournament had four nations, but with newcomers Tunisia and Uganda, who joined Egypt and Ethiopia. Sudan were absent. The formula was changed to a knockout and a grand final.
Ethiopia celebrated a great victory over Tunisia, winning 4-2. In the other match, Egypt came from a goal down in the first half to beat Uganda 2-1. The stage was then set for a dream final between the hosts and defending champions. Before the final, Uganda lost 3-0 to Tunisia in the third-place match.
To dethrone the Pharaohs was always going to be a tall order, but Ethiopia had the home support to make history.
First, the hosts were shocked by Badauli’s 35th minute goal. Girma equalised late in the second-half, but just in the space of a minute Badaui silenced the stadium again.
Six minutes before the end, striker Menguistou sent the game to extra time. Italo turned the tide in the first 15 minutes and Menguistou second sealed the Pharaoh’s fate.
1963 — GHANA
The presence of two more teams increased participation to six from four. For the first time also, the tournament was played in two cities — newcomers and host Ghana headed the Accra group, while the Kumasi group involved Egypt, Sudan and freshers Nigeria.
The winners of each group were to play the final after playing on a league basis.
Ghana won their group, dominating Ethiopia and Tunisia. It was a tougher scenario in Kumasi where Sudan progressed to the final, crushing Nigeria 4-0.
Sudan, with far more experience in the competition, played a Ghanaian side preparing to rule the continent.
The host side triumphed 3-0, but it was not an easy final as the scoreline would suggest.
1965 — TUNISIA
Ghana successfully defended their title in Tunisia. The Tunisians spread the tournament in four major cities — Sousse, Bizerte and Sfax, in addition to the capital. Ghana began the countdown with a 5-2 defeat of Congo. Ivory Coast also crashed to the Black Stars.
The competition did not change its format from the previous edition. Tunisia won their group match with an emphatic 4-0 win over Ethiopia. Apart from Ivory Coast and Congo, Senegal were also making their first appearance.
In the previous tournaments, the host nations had prevailed, apart from the maiden edition in 1957. Tunisia disappointed their home fans as the Black Stars pipped them 3-2, with Odoi’s extra-time goal in the final.
1968 — ETHIOPIA
The tournament was back to Ethiopia after only four years.
This time eight teams were in the finals, Algeria and Zaire making their debut appearances.
Algeria, with a great player like Lamas, were in Group A, involving Ethiopia, Uganda and Ivory Coast. Zaire played alongside Ghana, Senegal and Congo in Asmara, the base of Group B.
Both semi-finals of 1968 were settled in extra time. Ghana won theirs 4-3 against Ivory Coast, while the hosts were sent packing by a strong Zairean squad, led by Peirre Kalala.
In a classic final at the Addis Ababa Stadium, Kalala’s 66th minute goal engraved a new name in the table of winners.
1970 — THE SUDAN
The same number of teams was maintained, just as was the previous formula.
Sudan, at the time, found themselves drawn into an easy-looking group with old rivals Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, who were playing their first competition. That was the prediction, but apart from the 3-0 trouncing of Ethiopia, the host lost to Ivory Coast in the second game. The Ivorians won 1-0 with a last-minute shock goal.
The defeat put immense pressure on the team coached by Jiri Starosta from Czechoslovakia. Victory in the last match of the group against Cameroon (2-1) virtually earned them a place in the semi-finals.
At the other venue in Wad Medani, Group B was stuffed with three champions, Ghana, Egypt and Zaire, the 1968 winners.
First, Ghana took revenge over the Zairians for losing the 1968 final by winning 2-0, but drawing 1-1 with Egypt and Guinea.
The defending champions lost another two points to Egypt. The 1-0 score threw the Pharaohs into a semi-final clash with Sudan — a match they would have loved to avoid, before Sudan could celebrate after extra time. Both sides finished normal time 1-1, then two late goals in the 83rd and 84th minutes put the sides level.
Ghana had an easy affair against Ivory Coast, too. Malik Jabir’s 100th minute strike sailed the Black Stars to a fourth consecutive final.
Ghana lost the final 1-0, just as they did in the previous tournament.
1972 — CAMEROON
Half the participants played as debutantes. Morocco were fresh from the Mexico World Cup finals of 1970, but Togo, Kenya and Mali were considered as complete underdogs.
The home side played against Kenya, Togo and Mali. However, things were tight for the hosts. Malik didn’t win a match but joined Cameroon with their three draws.
Morocco also drew all their group games in Douala. Unfortunately, Congo scored more goals. Congo never looked like potential champions from the start. Surprisingly, though, they eliminated Cameroon 1-0 in the semi-finals. Mali also caused an upset over Zaire in the other semi-final. Despite Mali taking the lead, Congo won the final 3-2.
1974 — EGYPT
This time Zaire was Africa’s Team of the Moment, The Leopards (now Simba) were heading for the World Cup finals in Germany. Zambia and, strangely, Mauritius were in the competition for a first outing.
For Mauritius, it was a hard experience, packing out with three defeats. It was the contrary for Zambia who qualified for the semi-finals, though the hosts had a good bite, winning 3-1.
Zaire, Guinea, Congo, Ivory Coast and Uganda were the other teams.
Zaire ended the hopes of Egypt winning a third trophy semi-final encounter which Zaire won 3-2.
Zambia, likewise, pulled another surprise by eliminating defending champions, Congo, 4-2 after extra-time.
After Zambia and Zaire played a 2-2 after extra time in the final, penalty kicks were not introduced to decide the winner. Instead, there was a reply which the World Cup-bound Zairians won 2-0.
1976 — ETHIOPIA
A new formula was introduced — a round-robin format for the two groups, with the two top teams meeting for another round-robin stage. The team with the highest points won the tournament.
Ethiopia, Uganda, Egypt and Guinea played in the Addis-Ababa group, while Nigeria, Zaire, Morocco and Sudan engaged one another in the other city, Dire Dawa.
Guinea, Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt qualified for the second round to decide the champions.
The final scheduled match between Guinea and Morocco proved to be a crucial one and was referred to as the grand final.
The Guineans had to win if they should carry the trophy and Morocco needed only a draw. Destiny brightly went Morocco’s way as they scrambled for a late equaliser to take the trophy to North Africa after 17 years.
1978 — GHANA
The 1976 method of justifying a winner did not appeal to many and the old formula was restored.
Upper Volta were the only new boys; the rest were experienced partakers: Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Uganda and Congo.
Ghana and Nigeria got to the last four from their group, while Uganda and Tunisia, Africa’s World Cup representative that year, proceeded from their group.
After four appearances, Uganda reached the final for the first time, beating Nigeria 2-1 in the semis.
Ghana had a difficult match with Tunisia. The North Africans lot 1-0 and marched off the pitch before the final whistle.
Uganda gave a good account of themselves in the final, but Ghana were by far worthy champions to retire the A. A. Salem trophy.
1980 — NIGERIA
The Green Eagles of Nigeria, moulded as a winning team, had home advantage in one of the toughest Nations Cup finals.
Tanzania participated for the first time. The other teams present were Egypt, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Guinea.
Nigerian won all their group matches and Egypt joined them in the semi-finals. From the other group playing in Ibadan, Morocco and Algeria were the qualifiers.
Morocco lost 1-0 to the hosts and Algeria beat Egypt 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes. Nigeria won the final against Algeria 3-0 to make them the first to clinch the newly unveiled ‘African Unity Cup’.
1982 — LIBYA
Libya, the only new team among the eight finalists, were the hosts. In their Tripoli group they played Ghana (2-2), Cameroon (0-0) and beat Tunisia 2-0. In Benghazi, Algeria, Zambia, Nigeria, Ethiopia were in Group B.
Ghana beat Algeria 3-2 after extra-time in the first semi-final, while Libya struggled to the final with a 2-1 win over Zambia.
The Black Stars were crowned champions for the fourth time, beating the hosts 7-6 on penalties.
1984 — COTE D’IVOIRE
Malawi played in the final for the first time. They lost two games to Ghana and Algeria but recorded a memorable draw against Nigeria.
This tournament was among the best. Algeria and Cameroon had returned from a remarkable World Cup trip in Spain. Nigeria was in great form, likewise the Pharaohs of Egypt.
The shock of the tournament was Ghana’s elimination in round one.
The semi-finals had a classic pairing. Nigeria came from 2-0 down to eliminate Egypt on penalties. And the two World Cup finalists Algeria and Cameroon played goalless and penalties went 5-4 in favour of the Indomitable Lions.
Then Cameroon went on to show class in a 3-1 win over Nigeria to claim a first title.
1986 — EGYPT
After waiting over two decades, Egypt won their third Nations Cup. But it all began with a shock 1-0 defeat by Senegal. Mozambique, the newcomers, and Ivory Coast were in that same group.
Cameroon and Morocco made it to the finals from the Alexandria group. Zambia and Algeria were beaten for the two slots after a tough fight. Cameroon were in the final again to retain the trophy after Roger Milla’s lone goal eliminated Ivory Coast in the semi-finals. Egypt also qualified for the final by the same goal margin. Cameroon lost their crown 5-4 on penalties.
1988 — MOROCCO
Morocco staged the tournament following Zambia’s last-minute withdrawal to hold it.
It was another exciting tournament as African teams came of age. Morocco, in particular, had done Africa proud by qualifying for the World Cup’s second round.
Morocco’s group, which also involved Ivory Coast, Algeria and Zaire, was explosive. At the end of the group matches officials had to toss a coin between Ivory Coat and Algeria to decide who was to join Morocco in the semi-finals — Algeria had mother luck on their side. In the other group, Cameroon and Nigeria won the semi-final places, leaving Kenya and Egypt in the cold of despair.
A marathon penalty shoot-out saw Nigeria in the final. After a 1-1 draw, Nigeria won 9-8 in the shoot-out.
Cameroon tamed the hosts with Makanaky’s 79th-minute strike. The Cameroonians beat Nigeria 1-0 in the final from Emmanuel Kunde’s 55th minute penalty.
1990 — ALGERIA
For the Algerians, winning the cup was a matter of honour or death. To many of the Algerian stars, it was the perfect way of hanging their boots.
Egypt sent a second-rated team after tension with Algeria during the World Cup qualifiers.
Cameroon, who were also heading for Italia ’90, never convinced, losing to Senegal and Zambia. Kenya also played in that group.
Algeria swept past their group, but despite the 5-1 defeat over Nigeria, the Green Eagles made it to the semi-finals. Ivory Coast and Egypt bowed out.
The host nation beat Senegal 2-1 in a match full of spectacle and suspense. In the other match, Nigeria blasted two goals past Zambia.
So, Algeria met Nigeria again. However, the Nigerian caused anxious moments for the Desert Warriors. It was Chief Oudjani’s goal that eventually separated the two teams and Algeria’s first triumph.
1992 — SENEGAL
The CAF enlarged the tournament to 12 teams and four groups of three teams each.
After a long absence, Ghana were back but thrown into the group of death that comprised Egypt and Zambia. There were no newcomers. And the defending champions, Algeria, were disgracefully eliminated in the group stage.
The group stage was to be followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals, play-off and final. The knockout stages proved exciting, but it was a surprise to see Cote d’Ivoire in the final. If not for Abedi’s suspension from the match, probably the Ivorians would not have gone on to win 11-10 on penalties.
1994 — TUNISIA
Tunisia prepared the squad lavishly, playing European opposition in friendlies. From the results against Holland and Germany, expectation was high among the home fans. The tournament maintained the same number of teams. Sierra Leone and Gabon were the freshers. Tunisia bowed out after a humiliating defeat in the hands of modest Mali. They also drew 1-1 in a do-or-die clash with Zaire.
Cote d’Ivoire marvelled a lot with their football and Zambia were on the threshold of recovering after a plane crash had killed several of their best players. Nigeria was the greatest force in Tunisia. The Super Eagles were in the same group with Egypt and Gabon. Senegal and Guinea lined up against the Black Stars.
The Black Stars bowed out from a 2-1 defeat by rival neighbours Cote d’Ivoire. Mali upset the form books by beating Egypt 1-0, also in the quarter-finals.
The highlight of the semi-finals was that between the Ivorians and Nigeria. The Super Eagles came from behind twice to qualify for the final on post-game penalties.
Nigeria struggled in the later part of the match against Zambia but the World Cup-bound Super Eagles deservedly clinched their second title 2-1 in the El-Menzah Stadium.
1996 — SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa stepped into the shoes of Kenya to host the tournament. For millions of South Africans their national team’s victory at the 20th Nations Cup played a significant role to unite the nation — once the seat of apartheid politics.
The 20th tournament was increased to 16 finalists. The hosts spread the games across four cities: Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Bloemfontein.
Angola and Liberia were in their first competition.
But, most important ,the defending companions, Nigeria, boycotted following a political row between Abuja and Pretoria.
The Eagles’ absence poses the nagging question as to whether South Africa would have won the cup so easily.
Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire were the biggest casualties, while Gabon left a great impression. Tunisia lost the final 2-0 to the Bafana Bafana.
1998 — BURKINA FASO
For the first time in the history of the competition, Burkina Faso played host to the 16 qualified teams in the 21st edition of the tournament.
The matches were played in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. Groups A and B were based in Ouagadougou while Groups C and D were based in Bobo-Dioulasso.
Namibia made their first appearance in the tournament and could only manage a draw in the three group matches they played. They lost the other two and finished last in their group.
Host nation, Burkina Faso, put in everything in their quest to win the competition for the first time but their best was not good enough. They emerged fourth, losing 4-1 on penalties to Congo Kinshasha after drawing 4-4 in regulation time.
But before then, they had managed to push out Tunisia 8-7 on penalties after a gruelling 1-1 in one of the high points of the competition.
At the end of it all, Egypt emerged winners, beating defending champions, South Africa, 2-0, thereby equalling Ghana’s four-time winning record.
2000 — GHANA, NIGERIA
Ghana and Nigeria stepped into the shoes of Zimbabwe to co-host the tournament. The hosting right was taken from Zimbabwe on February 15, 1999, and on March 15, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) selected Ghana and Nigeria as co-hosts. It was the first time two countries were to co-host the tournament.
In Ghana, matches were played in Accra and Kumasi while Nigeria also chose Kano and Lagos as venues. Groups A and B were based in Ghana while Groups C and D were based in Nigeria.
Ghana was knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage of the competition by South Africa but co-hosts, Nigeria, managed to squeeze into the final after disposing of Senegal and South Africa in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
They came face to face with Cameroun in the final and what a titanic match it turned out to be. The two teams were at level terms after a pulsating 120 minutes — having scored two goals apiece thus forcing the game to be decided on the tie-breaking penalty kicks.
The Camerounians, who have always been a thorn in the flesh of Nigeria in the history of this tournament, came out with flying colours again — winning 4-3 — before a stunned crowd at the Surulere Stadium.
2004 — TUNISIA
The tournament moved to North Africa and saw Tunisia playing host for the third time — the previous occasions being in 1965 and 1994 when they failed to make a mark in the competition.
The Tunisians were, however, not to be a third time lucky. After topping their group at the end of first round matches, they moved into the quarter-finals where they conquered Senegal.
The semi-final stage was not that easy. They settled for a 1-1 draw with Nigeria at the end of stipulation time and only managed to get through 5-3 on penalties.
The final turned out to be an all-North African affair as they took on Morocco. At the end of the day, the Tunisians made history by inscribing their name on the trophy for the first time. They beat the Moroccans 2-1.
2006 — EGYPT
The tournament stayed in North Africa — moving from Tunisia to Egypt in 2008. The Egyptians went into the tournament with an awesome record — being the nation to have participated the most since its inception in 1957 and also being one of two countries (Ghana being the other) to have won it a record four times.
Like Ghana, the Egyptians were looking for their fifth triumph but with the Ghanaians bowing out early — they failed to go beyond the group stage — the Egyptians were fired up for glory.
And it not elude them at the end of the day — even though it came the hard way. After demolishing Congo Kinshasha and Senegal in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, they took on Cote d’Ivoire in the final and found them a hard nut to crack.
Neither team was able to score a goal in regulation time and it took penalties to separate the two sides — with the Egyptians netting four while the Ivorians got only two.
And to top it all, the Egyptians proudly emerged as the only country to have won the tournament FIVE TIMES.