Super Eagles off to Egypt in June as Caf picks Egyptians to host 2019 African Cup of Nations

NIGERIA'S Super Eagles will be heading to Egypt for the 2019 African Cup of Nations in the summer after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) decided to award the hosting of the tournament to the world's largest Arab nation.


Initially, Cameroon had been earmarked to host the tournament but after it was found out that the country lacked the required facilities, it was stripped of the hosting rights. Egypt, the record seven times winners of the tournament will now host the continental fiesta between June 15 and July 13.


After the confederation's meeting in Dakar, the Senegalese capital to consider several bids, Caf' president Ahmad Ahmad, said that its executive committee preferred Egypt to South Africa as a replacement for Cameroon, who were dropped due to delays in preparations and security concerns. This will be the fifth time Egypt stage the biennial showpiece of African football after 1959 when the country was called the United Arab Republic, 1974, 1986 and 2006.


Late last year, Morocco were favourites to replace Cameroon as hosts and Egypt said it did not want to compete against a fellow Arab nation. However, Morocco pulled out of the race, leaving Egypt and South Africa in the running, of whom Caf had to pick one.


Egypt boast of many international standard venues with the Cairo International Stadium that takes 72,000 spectators and the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria seating 87,000 people boasting of the largest capacities. Ismaily, Port Said and Suez are among other venues that are likely to be used for the fiesta.


With the choice of Egypt, the Pharaohs will now be favourites to win a record-extending eighth African Cup of Nations title. Egypt won three of the four previous tournaments they hosted, failing only in 1974 when they were beaten by Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the semi-finals.


Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who is favourite to retain the African Player of the Year award in Dakar, will be the star of the show and is expected to lead Egypt's attack.  Security and weather will be two challenges facing Egypt in the first African Cup of Nations to feature 24 teams, up from 16 in Gabon two years ago.


Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda have qualified for the 2019 tournament. Later this year, the other 10 places will be filled after the final qualifiers taking place between March 18 and 26.