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Everything you need to know about the Africa Cup of Nations

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Who are the favourites to win AFCON? (1:59)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss the possible winners of the Africa Cup of Nations ahead of the start of the tournament on Sunday. (1:59)

The Africa Cup of Nations, delayed from 2021, takes place in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, albeit with a large and rapidly growing coronavirus cloud hanging gloomily over it.

The continental showpiece tournament comprises of 24 teams, split into six groups of four. The group stage takes place from Jan. 9, with hosts Cameroon kicking the tournament off against Burkina Faso, while the knock-out rounds start on Jan. 23.

READ: Groups and Standings

READ: Tournament Fixtures and Schedule

Ahead of the tournament, a number of big names either had to withdraw, due to club issues or delayed participation after testing positive for COVID-19, including Nigeria's Odion Ighalo and Emmanuel Dennis, and Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Lemina. Ivory Coast also lost goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to a prohibited substance ban.

Key stories

Nigeria have reclaimed their fear factor to become AFCON favourites

In recent years, the team have fallen short of those glory days and have suffered some embarrassing results, including a stunning home loss in World Cup qualifying to Central African Republic -- a side ranked 124th in the world at the time. The last two displays in Cameroon have not only changed the perception, but have their fans falling in love with their team again.

Guinea aiming to prove Keita is Africa's finest player

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita will miss Guinea's round-of-16 tie at the Africa Cup of Nations after picking up a yellow card in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat by Zimbabwe, but his team have vowed to battle through to the quarterfinals to prove he deserves to be considered one of the continent's top players.

Ex-England defender Steven Caulker now key for Sierra Leone

Steven Caulker may only be two games into his international career with Sierra Leone, but the one-time England defender is already enjoying a remarkable start to life with the Leone Stars at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Gabon coach: Aubameyang had no cardiac problems

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was prevented from playing for Gabon in their Africa Cup of Nations draw with Ghana on Friday after traces of the coronavirus were found in his system, according to head coach Patrice Neveu, who refuted earlier reports from his own federation that the striker was suffering with heart problems.

Nigeria flourishing under Augustine Eguavoen's new approach

There was a bit of the fortuitous in Nigeria's second goal against Sudan in their second group game of the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday, but nothing fortunate about the convincing nature of the result that saw them secure their place in the round of 16.

Ivory Coast's Max Gradel hopes to honour late father with AFCON glory

Max Gradel, playing only five days after the funeral of his father, who made the difference in the Elephants' AFCON opener against Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday, slamming home a right-footed effort from 20 yards before dissolving in tears at the emotion of the moment.

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How Algeria ended up on the wrong end of a massive AFCON upset

Julien Laurens reacts to Equatorial Guinea's shocking victory over reigning champions Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Gabon unconcerned about Aubameyang's Arsenal form

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may not have played football for more than a month, and he may have been in isolation for six days after testing positive for COVID-19, but Gabon have absolutely no concerns about his fitness and sharpness as they prepare to welcome him back on Friday.

Ghana pinning hopes on Partey against Gabon

Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac has backed Black Stars midfielder Thomas Partey to show the quality that could make him the outstanding player of the Africa Cup of Nations when the West African heavyweights resume their campaign on Friday.

Tunisia v Mali reffing chaos a blight on AFCON's reputation

The early days of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations have been fraught with incident, from positive coronavirus tests to Burkina Faso alleging "scandal" around CAF's coronavirus protocols, but none of it compared to the refereeing storm that engulfed the final moments of Mali's 1-0 victory over Tunisia in Limbe, Cameroon, on Wednesday.

Meet Salima Mukansanga, who is set to be AFCON's first female primary ref

Salima Mukansanga is primed to make history at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, where she will become the first woman to referee a match at the men's continental showpiece. The tournament in Cameroon is the latest step in a rise to prominence for Mukansanga, who was the fourth official for Guinea's 1-0 victory over Malawi on Monday, and is expected to take the reins as a central referee later this week.

Nigeria defy chaotic build-up to defeat Egypt in AFCON opener

Kelechi Iheanacho ripped home a world-class strike on the half-hour mark, and the Super Eagles survived a late siege to emerge with all three points from their opening game of the tournament. In fairness, the scoreline flattered the Pharaohs. It could easily have been at least four.

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Nigeria 'vibrant and aggressive' in AFCON win vs. Egypt

Ed Dove shares his thoughts on Nigeria's 1-0 win over Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Gabon hopeful of having Aubameyang back against Ghana

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is training in his hotel room in a bid to give himself the best chance possible of making an impact for Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations, according to head coach Patrice Neveu.

Short-staffed Nigeria unbothered by prospect of Salah's Egypt at AFCON

Losing four starters on the eve of a tournament is not exactly ideal for any team with realistic designs on the title, but Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa says his team is confident ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations opener against Egypt. The Super Eagles start their AFCON tilt against Mohamed Salah's Pharaohs in Garoua on Tuesday, missing the likes of Victor Osimhen, Leon Balogun, and Odion Ighalo, while Paul Onuachu is not with the squad either.

Cameroon's Andre Onana determined to put 'difficult year' behind him at AFCON

Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana has told ESPN that he is delighted to put a "difficult year" behind him and focus on glory with the Indomitable Lions after the hosts secured a 2-1 victory in the Africa Cup of Nations opener over Burkina Faso on Sunday. The Inter Milan-bound goalkeeper endured a difficult 2021 in which he didn't play competitively for 10 months after receiving an initial one-year ban -- later reduced to nine months -- for testing positive for prohibited substance Furosemide.

Read it in Dutch HERE.

Napoli's Zambo Anguissa: Clubs 'have to respect' that AFCON is important for African players

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa says it wasn't an easy decision to step away from Napoli's title charge midway through the Serie A season to join Cameroon's Africa Cup of Nations squad, but he has the full backing of his club during the continental showpiece.

Cameroon at a crossroads as Africa Cup of Nations arrives ... finally

On Friday afternoon, 48 hours before the Africa Cup of Nations was due to kick off at the newly ... nearly ... finished Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital already had a sizzling, feverish pre-match feel. It's been 50 years since Cameroon last hosted the continental showpiece -- a lifetime in footballing terms, particularly considering the Nations Cup is hosted every two years -- and the young population of this Central African country have only heard about that 1972 tournament in whispered memories passed down through the generations.

Africa Cup of Nations Power Rankings

It's hard to look beyond the reigning champions Algeria, who have played 33 matches without defeat since October 2018.

Who will win the AFCON Golden Boot?

Africa's finest attackers are set to descend on Cameroon in January as the continent's top sides compete for the Africa Cup of Nations, but who will go home with the top scorer award?

Nigeria's record number of dual nationals for AFCON has a long history

Nigeria interim head coach Augustine Eguavoen named his 28-man squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations on Christmas day, and it features more dual nationals than ever before. Six of the 28 players were either born or raised abroad. That is the highest number of dual nationality players, born or raised outside Nigeria, to be named in a tournament squad.

'No excuses': Nigeria interim coach Augustine Eguavoen aims to make the most of another AFCON tilt

It must feel like deja vu for Super Eagles interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, who was in charge of the Nigeria team at the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and saw them to a bronze medal. Fifteen years later, he has returned to lead the team back to the tournament and then make way for someone else, this time for Jose Peseiro, who will take over from Gernot Rohr.

A scout's paradise: Five players who got their big break at AFCON

In the tournament's history, some of Africa's hottest talents have used the AFCON as a platform to secure a move to European football and the riches that can await across the Mediterranean. ESPN remembers five African players who made the move to Europe on the back of a Nations Cup, and profile some emerging stars who could follow in their footsteps in 2022.