Your complete 2021 Africa Cup of Nations guide
The 2021 Africa Nations Cup is now under way and there is Manchester United interest in the competition.
Defender Eric Bailly and young midfielder Hannibal have been selected in the squads of Ivory Coast and Tunisia respectively.
The month-long jamboree of tournament football is being televised across the world and, like the Euros and Copa America last summer, is attracting plenty of attention.
In case you aren't up to speed, here’s all you need to know...
HOST, DATES AND FORMAT
Originally scheduled to be played in Cameroon in the summer of 2021, the tournament has twice seen its dates altered. CAF, the governing body of African football, moved it forward to January/February 2021 due to the more favourable conditions on the continent at that time of year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 12-month postponement.
The competition, which retains its original name despite taking place in 2022, finally got under way on Sunday 9 January, with the 24-team group phase concluding 11 days later. The top two sides in each of the six groups will progress to the round of 16, alongside the four best third-placed teams.
The dates for the knockout rounds are as follows:
Round of 16: 23-25 January
Quarter-finals: 29-30 January
Semi-finals: 2-3 February
Third-placed play-off: 6 February
Final: 6 February
HOW THE GROUPS LINE UP
Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia
Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Gabon, Comoros
Group D: Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E: Algeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea
Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania
The Reds pair kick off their campaigns on 12 January, with Ivory Coast facing Equatorial Guinea in Group E (19:00 GMT) and Tunisia playing Mali in Group F (13:00 GMT).
Four days later, the Elephants go up against Sierra Leone, while Hannibal and co entertain Mauritania.
The group phase concludes on 20 January, with Ivory Coast v Algeria and Gambia v Tunisia. Our duo could potentially face each other in the round of 16, should Tunisia top their group and Ivory Coast come second in theirs.
HOW IT AFFECTS OUR UPCOMING GAMES
Bailly and Hannibal will definitely miss at least three United fixtures, including the Emirates FA Cup win over Aston Villa on Monday, plus our trip to Villa Park for a league clash this weekend. Steven Gerrard’s side are without wingers Bertrand Traore and Trezeguet for those games, while West Ham will also be shorn of attacking midfielder Said Benrahma for their trip to Manchester on Saturday 22 January.
Our next Premier League game after that is away at Burnley on 8 February, two days after the third-placed play-off and final are set to take place. If Bailly and Ivory Coast make it that far, then the Clarets will also be missing Maxwel Cornet who has been inspirational since signing from Lyon in the summer.
PREMIER LEAGUE INTEREST
There is significant Premier League representation at the tournament, with 34 players called up from across 16 clubs. Arsenal have the most inclusions, with five, while Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich and Tottenham are the only top-flight sides with no squad members involved:
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Mohamed Elneny (Egypt), Thomas Partey (Ghana), Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast), Omar Rekik (Tunisia)
Aston Villa: Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso), Trezeguet (Egypt)
Brentford: Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)
Brighton: Yves Bissouma (Mali), Ulrick Eneme Ella (Gabon)
Burnley: Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)
Chelsea: Edouard Mendy (Senegal)
Crystal Palace: Jordan Ayew (Ghana), Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)
Everton: Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
Leicester: Daniel Amartey (Ghana), Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria), Nampalys Mendy (Senegal), Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)
Liverpool: Naby Keita (Guinea), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Mo Salah (Egypt)
Manchester City: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Manchester United: Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast), Hannibal (Tunisia)
Southampton: Moussa Djenepo (Mali)
Watford: Imran Louza (Morocco), Adam Masina (Morocco), Ismaila Sarr (Senegal), William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria)
West Ham: Said Benrahma (Algeria)
Wolves: Willy Boly (Ivory Coast), Romain Saiss (Morocco)
All 52 tournament matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, so make sure you tune in to support our players. Good luck, lads!