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Africa Cup kicks off.

The 30th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), the immensely popular football championship of Africa, gets underway in Equatorial Guinea tomorrow.

As ever, it will attract the attention of the entire world, with millions tuning in to see which one of the 16 nations emerges victorious. However, there are a number of underlying stories you need to know.

History

It is the most prestigious football tournament in the continent of Africa, which has been staged since 1957 and every two years since 1968.

The flourishing popularity of football in Africa has seen the competition grow more and more, from just three entrants in 1957 to 16 today – and that’s after a full qualifying competition. In 2013, the tournament was switched to odd-numbered years so it wouldn’t clash with the World Cup.

Winners

Egypt are by far the most successful nation, with seven wins to their credit, the latest of which came in 2010. They have also been runners-up once and taken third place on three occasions.

Ghana and Cameroon have lifted the trophy four times apiece, while Nigeria have three crowns. DR Congo have two, while the Ivory Coast, Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa and Congo-Brazzaville have won it once each.

Favourites

According to Cranes coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, this Afcon is a very difficult one to call: “When you look at a group which has South Africa, Senegal, Ghana and Algeria, whom can you pick? They are all good with relatively equal strengths and weaknesses.”

However, Jacob Ghost Mulee, the last coach to take Kenya to the Afcon in 2004, told The Observer that on a scale of 1, 2, and 3, Senegal, Ghana and Algeria are a shoo-in to win the Afcon this year.

“Senegal is spoilt for choice on talent, and they will be hungry since they have never won it. For Algeria, they are the top-ranked African side, an indication of how well and consistent they have been even throughout the qualifiers. For Ghana, the pressure to perform will push them.”

Players to watch

Micho told The Observer that players like Yaya Toure, Seydou Keita, Pierre Aubemeyang and Sadio Mane, if passed fit, should be a highlight. However, others to watch will be Yacine Brahimi, the BBC 2014 Africa Footballer of the year, South Africa’s striker Tokelo Rantie and DR Congo’s Yannick Bolassie should set the stage alight.

Previous winners

1957 (Sudan) Egypt 4 Ethiopia 0
1959 (Egypt) Egypt 2 Sudan 1
1962 (Ethiopia)Ethiopia 4 Egypt 2
1963 (Ghana) Ghana 3 Sudan 0

1965 (Tunisia) Ghana 3 Tunisia 2
1968 (Ethiopia) DR Congo 1 Ghana 0
1970 (Sudan) Sudan 1 Ghana 0
1972 (Cameroon) Congo 1 Mali 0

1974 (Egypt) Zaire 2 Zambia 0
1976 (Ethiopia) Morocco (Group stage format)
1978 (Ghana) Ghana 2 Uganda 0
1980 (Nigeria) Nigeria 3 Algeria 0

1982 (Libya) Ghana 1 Libya 1 (Ghana won 7-6 on penalties)
1984 (Ivory Coast) Cameroon 3 Nigeria 1
1986 (Egypt) Egypt 0 Cameroon 0 (Egypt won 5-4 on penalties)

1988 (Morocco) Cameroon 1 Nigeria 0
1990 (Algeria) Algeria 1 Nigeria 0
1992 (Senegal) Ivory Coast 0 Ghana 0 (Ivory Coast won 11-10 on penalties)
1994 (Tunisia) Nigeria 2 Zambia 1

1996 (South Africa) South Africa 2 Tunisia 0
1998 (Burkina Faso) Egypt 2 South Africa 0
2000 (Ghana and Nigeria)Cameroon 2 Nigeria 2 (Cameroon won 4-3 on penalties)
2002 (Mali) Cameroon 0 Senegal 0 (Cameroon won 3-2 on penalties)

2004 (Tunisia) Tunisia 2 Morocco 1
2006 (Egypt) Egypt 0 Ivory Coast 0 (Egypt won 3-2 on penalties)
2008 (Ghana) Egypt 1 Cameroon 0
2010 (Angola) Egypt 1 Ghana 0

2012 (Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) Zambia 0 Ivory Coast 0 (Zambia won 8-7 on penalties)
2013 (South Africa) Nigeria 1 Burkina Faso 0

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