Africa Cup of Nations

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Field set for African Cup of Nations as last five teams qualify

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South Africa became the last team to qualify for the African Cup of Nations as it ended Libya’s hopes with a 2-1 win in Tunisia.

Bafana Bafana took the 24th spot at an expanded African Cup in Egypt in June and July, the first time the continental championship will be increased from 16 to 24 teams.

[ MORE: Man City seeks Bayern apology ]

South Africa was one of five teams to leave it to Sunday, the last day of qualifying, to book its place. Benin, Zimbabwe, Congo and Tanzania also made it to complete the 2019 African Cup lineup.

Striker Percy Tau was South Africa’s hero with both goals as the game against Libya came alive in a dramatic 20-minute spell after halftime.

Tau put South Africa ahead in the 49th minute with a powerful left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area. Ahmad Benali equalized with a penalty in the 65th after South Africa goalkeeper Darren Keet kicked a Libyan player in the face as he went up to catch the ball.

Tau re-established South Africa’s lead just three minutes later with a right-footed goal this time.

South Africa needed just a draw to qualify. Libya had to win.

Stadium stampede kills at least one during AFCON qualifying

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A mad rush to get into a stadium in Madagascar has led to death of at least one spectator and injuries to over 30 more.

[ MORE: USMNT loss to Brazil still shows hope for future ]

The Stade de Mahamasina uses only one entrance. That’s a fatal flaw that should’ve been remedied long ago, and the stadium also saw two fans die and many more injured during a 2005 stampede to get into an already packed building.

The Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match went ahead as scheduled between Senegal and Madagascar. From the BBC:

Thousands of spectators were still trying to get into the stadium through the only entrance.

Two of those hurt are in a critical condition in the capital, Antananarivo.

Unfortunately, as the BBC notes, stadium stampedes are not a rarity.

The match finished 2-2, with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Stoke City’s Mame Diouf scoring for Senegal.

He could’ve scored six: Salah shines for Egypt

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Mohamed Salah had a night.

Returning to Egypt for the first time since the World Cup, Salah scored twice and added two assists in a 6-0 win over Niger in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. He also missed two penalties, converted the rebound of one.

[ MORE: Maguire extends time at Leicester ]

The video doesn’t lie: The Egyptian superstar probably could’ve scored as many as six goals (and Niger’s defense was terrible). That estimate may even be conservative.

It started with Salah missing a first minute penalty, but this video shows just how dominant of a performance was put forth by the Liverpool star. Regardless of opponent, it should be eye-opening for those who think his incredible season with the Reds was simply a product of Jurgen Klopp‘s system.

African soccer considers major shakeup for Cup of Nations

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RABAT, Morocco (AP) African soccer’s biggest tournament could be moved from the start of the year to the European summer months of June and July, with the number of teams being increased from 16 to 24.

The proposals for the future of the African Cup of Nations were made at a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Rabat, Morocco, hosted by the Confederation of African Football. The changes appear to have widespread support.

New CAF president Ahmad, who was elected in March to replace long-standing leader Issa Hayatou, promised a review of the Cup of Nations in his election campaign.

The move from January-February to June-July would be especially important for CAF’s flagship tournament – its major money earner – which has been troubled for years by the fact that it clashes with a crucial time for European leagues.

That’s led to club vs. country dilemmas for many of Africa’s Europe-based players, underlined at this year’s Cup of Nations in Gabon when seven of Cameroon’s top players decided to miss the three-week tournament to remain with their clubs.

The increase from 16 to 24 teams would follow the lead of the European Championship, which increased from 16 to 24 teams in 2016, and the World Cup, which will go to 48 teams from 2026. The reasoning behind the expansion for the African Cup is simple: More teams mean more games, and more television and marketing revenue for CAF.

The proposals, made at the meeting of leading soccer figures from across Africa, would need to be formally approved by CAF’s executive committee. The executive committee is expected to meet before CAF’s special general assembly is held in Rabat on Friday.