All you need to know about the 2017 AFCON

As the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) edges closer, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the biennial tournament.

When is it?

The showpiece will run from January 14 to February 5, 2017.

What about the host?

The competition was scheduled to be hosted by Libya, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) rescinded its hosting rights in August 2014 due to the ongoing war in the country. The tournament will instead be hosted by Gabon.

Where are the match venues?

The 32 matches will be played across four venues: Stade de l’Amitié (Libreville), Stade de Franceville (Franceville), Stade d’Oyem (Oyem), Stade de Port-Gentil (Port-Gentil).

The final will be played at the Stade de l’Amitié.

And the qualified teams?

Sixteen teams will battle it out at the 2017 AFCON. Gabon automatically booked their place as tournament host while the other 15 went through qualifier. The others are include Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, DR Congo, and Togo.

What’s the competition’s format?

All 16 teams are drawn into a group of four and will play a single round robin. After the group stage, the top two teams from each group will advance to the last eight. The quarterfinal winners will advance to the last four. The semi-final losers will play in third place match, while semi-final winners will play in final.

Any debutant?

Guinea-Bissau will be appearing at the AFCON for the first in history. The West Africans qualified as winners in a group that also had Zambia, Congo, and Kenya.

Who are the favourites?

Defending champions, Cote d’Ivoire, will be aiming for their third African title. So are the likes of Ghana, Senegal, Algeria, and Cameroon.

And the underdogs?

DR Congo could just go ahead to nick the title considering the exploits of the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Dieumerci Mbokani and others. Perennial underachievers, Mali and Tunisia, could also pose a threat at the tourney.

Any surprise absentee?

Three-time champions, Nigeria, are the biggest absentee from the competition. The Super Eagles have now failed to qualify for two successive AFCON after their triumph in 2013. Others are 2012 winners, Zambia, and 1996 champions, South Africa.

Will any record be broken?

Ivorian, Siaka Tiéné, is on track for his record eight tournaments having featured in all editions since 2002.

Egypt will be making their 22nd appearance at the competition – the most by any nation.

Stars to watch

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon, Borussia Dortmund)

Sadio Mane (Senegal, Liverpool)

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria, Leicester City)

Mohammed Salah (Egypt, AS Roma)