Genesis.. Chapter 1
The History of The African Cup of Nations…. where it all started
The 32nd Africa Cup of Nations will be staged in Egypt from June 21-July 19, with an expanded field of 24 teams vying for the coveted trophy. Played every two years, the tournament has a long and rich history, older even than the European Championships, and is the jewel in the African football crown.
With its history starting with the first some 62 years ago , the biennual African Cup of Nations tournament has been played since 1957 and is thereby older than the corresponding European championship. In February 1957, beneath the heat of the Nubian Desert in Sudan, few could have predicted the expansion of the African Nations Cup
1st AFCON in 1957 with EGYPT as Host & Champions
There the Confederation of African Football was formed and the organisation planned the first tournament for the following year in Khartoum. However, as the start date drew near, there were a few hurdles to overcome, such as the exclusion of South Africa after the apartheid regime failed to approve a multi-racial team.
So with South Africa out, the tournament came down to a play-off between just three teams – Egypt, hosts Sudan and Ethiopia.
Hosts Egypt defeated Sudan 2-1 and then thumped the Ethiopians 4-0 in the decider, with Mohamed Diab Al-Attar, better known as Ad-Diba, scoring all four goals. He had also placed a bet against Sudan to take his tally to five in the tournament.
2nd AFCON in 1959 with EGYPT as Host & Champions
Egypt was then briefly known as the United Arab Republic, and hosted again, lifting the trophy for the second time.
The same three teams competed, this time in a round robin format and the hosts again beat Ethiopia 4-0, Mahmoud El-Gohary with a hat-trick, before a 2-1 win over Sudan sealed the title. It was exactly the same set of results from two years previously
3rd AFCON in 1962 with ETHIOPIA as Host & Champions
The tournament moved to Ethiopia with four teams in play as Sudan dropped out but Tunisia and Uganda joined the party. It was back to the knockout format as Ethiopia beat Tunisia 4-2 in their semifinal and Egypt edged Uganda 2-1.
Ethiopia gained revenge for past losses with a 4-2 win after extra-time in the final after the teams had played to a 2-2 draw. Luciano Vassalo, who was of Italian origin, as their hero with three goals in the competition.
4th AFCON in 1963 with GHANA as Host & Champions
The list of teams was expanded to six and Ghana kept up the record of the host nation always lifting the title.
There were two groups of three teams, with the top side advancing to the final. Ghana drew 1-1 with Tunisia and beat Ethiopia 2-0 to finish top of their pool, while Sudan edged them on goal-difference from Egypt. They claimed a 2-2 draw with The Pharaohs and then beat debutants Nigeria 4-0, who had also lost 6-3 to Egypt previously.
Edward Acquah’s two goals in the decider helped Ghana to a 3-0 win, while Egypt finished third after beating Ethiopia by the same scoreline in the bronze-medal match.
5th AFCON in 1965 with TUNISIA as Host & GHANA as Champions
Congo, Ivory Coast and Senegal debuted this year, but Egypt had withdrawn from the competition after a breakdown in relations with hosts Tunisia.
Ghana and Tunisia topped their groups to set up a final, where the Black Stars claimed back-to-back with a 3-2 success after extra-time, Frank Odoi their two-goal hero in the decider.
Ivory Coast came third after a 1-1 win over Senegal.
6th AFCON in 1968 with ETHIOPIA as Host & Congo-Kinshasa as Champions
Now up to eight teams, there were this time two groups of four in the pool stages, including debutants Algeria and Congo-Brazzaville. The format was tweaked too, with the top two in each pool advancing to the semifinals, and hosts Ethiopia and Ivory Coast emerged from Group A, with Ghana and Congo-Kinshasa successful in Group B.
Both semis were thrillers as Congo-Kinshasa edged Ethiopia in extra-time and Ghana defeated Ivory Coast 4-3, also after an extra 30 minutes. Pierre Kalala Mukendi then got the only goal as the Congolese edged Ghana 1-0 in the final, while the Ivorians came third, their goal scored by the legendary Laurent Pokou.
7th AFCON in 1970 in SUDAN (Host & Win)
Sudan took advantage of being at home to claim the title as Cameroon and Guinea joined the party for the first time.
In the same format as two years’ previously, Ivory Coast and Sudan won through from Group A, while Egypt and Ghana advanced from the other pool.
Ghana and Sudan won their semifinals, with the latter edging the final after an early goal from Hasabu El-Sagheer.
This Nations Cup finals was famous for the eight goals scored by Ivorian Laurent Pokou.
8th AFCON in 1972 with Cameroon as Host & Congo (Brazzaville) as Champions
Kenya, Mali, Morocco and Togo all made the finals for the first time, but Congo would come out on top in something of a surprise triumph. They finished second in their pool behind neighbours Zaire, while in the other group Mali and Cameroon emerged.
Congo then edged the home side 1-0 in the semifinals, while Mali beat Zaire in a 4-3 thriller, Fantamady Keita grabbing two goals. Jean-Michel M’Bono then scored twice in the final as Congo defeated Mali 3-2 to claim gold. Cameroon came third.
9th AFCON in 1974 with Egypt as Host & Zaire as Champions
Mauritius were shock qualifiers for these finals while Zambia also appeared for the first time in Egypt and would go on to make the final. Egypt and Zambia emerged from Group A, while Congo and Zaire moved on from Group B as the Central African powerhouses continued to shine.
Zaire edged Egypt 3-2 in the semis, while Zambia stunned defending champions Congo 4-2. Zaire, with red-hot striker Ndaye Mulamba netting twice, beat Zambia 2-0 in a replay of the final, the forward taking his tally to a record nine in the tournament – a mark that still stands.
The first game had finished 2-2 after extra-time, and with no penalties to decide the clash, a second game was played two days later.
Egypt finished third with a 4-0 win over Congo.
10th AFCON in 1976 with Ethiopia as Host & Morocco as Champions
Guinea and Egypt took the top two positions in Group A, while Morocco and Nigeria were the top teams in the other pool.
A change in format meant the four sides then played each other in a round-robin group that ended with Morocco on top with two wins and a draw from their three games.
They got the point they needed in a 1-1 draw with Guinea, though relied on a late goal from Ahmed ‘Baba’ Makrouh with four minutes to go to seal the win.
11th AFCON in 1978 with Ghana as Host & Champions
Ghana claimed their third title on home soil with a 2-0 victory over Uganda in the final, and The Cranes would have to wait another 29 years before they appeared at the continental showpiece again.
Opoku Afriyie bagged both goals for the Black Stars in the decider, while Nigeria took third place after their bronze-medal match against Tunisia was abandoned at 1-1.
The Tunisians walked off the pitch after they disputed a goal scored by the Super Eagles in the 42nd minute and refused to play on. The game was awarded 2-0 to Nigeria and Tunisia banned from CAF competitions for two years.
to be continued…