Zambia embarked on a shocking championship run in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, defeating Ghana and the Ivory Coast in the final two rounds to win their first title. While they hope to replicate that success in 2013, 15 other countries are also in pursuit.
Along with Zambia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and host South Africa are also among the top contenders to take home the coveted trophy. The often unpredictable tournament should provide fans with a month of exciting action.
Here's a glance at all the important information for the event, which will be available via live stream, followed by a list of every team, the tournament schedule and some predictions.
Host: South Africa
Dates: Saturday, Jan. 19 – Sunday, Feb. 10
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
|Cape Verde Islands|
|Jan. 19||11 a.m.||South Africa||Cape Verde Islands||Group A|
|Jan. 19||2 p.m.||Angola||Morocco||Group A|
|Jan. 20||10 a.m.||Ghana||Congo DR||Group B|
|Jan. 20||1 p.m.||Mali||Niger||Group B|
|Jan. 21||10 a.m.||Zambia||Ethiopia||Group C|
|Jan. 21||1 p.m.||Nigeria||Burkina Faso||Group C|
|Jan. 22||10 a.m.||Ivory Coast||Togo||Group D|
|Jan. 22||1 p.m.||Tunisia||Algeria||Group D|
|Jan. 23||10 a.m.||South Africa||Angola||Group A|
|Jan. 23||1 p.m.||Morocco||Cape Verde Islands||Group A|
|Jan. 24||10 a.m.||Ghana||Mali||Group B|
|Jan. 24||1 p.m.||Niger||Congo DR||Group B|
|Jan. 25||10 a.m.||Zambia||Nigeria||Group C|
|Jan. 25||1 p.m.||Burkina Faso||Ethiopia||Group C|
|Jan. 26||10 a.m.||Ivory Coast||Tunisia||Group D|
|Jan. 26||1 p.m.||Algeria||Togo||Group D|
|Jan. 27||12 p.m.||Cape Verde Islands||Angola||Group A|
|Jan. 27||12 p.m.||Morocco||South Africa||Group A|
|Jan. 28||12 p.m.||Congo DR||Mali||Group B|
|Jan. 28||12 p.m.||Niger||Ghana||Group B|
|Jan. 29||12 p.m.||Burkina Faso||Zambia||Group C|
|Jan. 29||12 p.m.||Ethiopia||Nigeria||Group C|
|Jan. 30||12 p.m.||Algeria||Ivory Coast||Group D|
|Jan. 30||12 p.m.||Togo||Tunisia||Group D|
|Feb. 2||10 a.m.||Group B Winner||Group A Runner-up||Quarterfinals|
|Feb. 2||1:30 p.m.||Group A Winner||Group B Runner-up||Quarterfinals|
|Feb. 3||10 a.m.||Group D Winner||Group C Runner-up||Quarterfinals|
|Feb. 3||1:30 p.m.||Group C Winner||Group D Runner-up||Quarterfinals|
|Feb. 6||10 a.m.||QF No. 2 Winner||QF No. 3 Winner||Semifinals|
|Feb. 6||1:30 p.m.||QF No. 1 Winner||QF No. 4 Winner||Semifinals|
|Feb. 9||1 p.m.||Semifinal Loser||Semifinal Loser||Third Place|
|Feb. 10||1 p.m.||Semifinal Winner||Semifinal Winner||Final|
Group A: South Africa and Morocco
South Africa will benefit from getting to host the tournament and getting to play in front of favorable crowds, but Bafana Bafana also have a strong squad. The attack will likely be led by Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker, who have a combined 35 international goals.
Veteran goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri will serve as the foundation for Morocco, which doesn't have a non-keeper above 30 years old. While the lack of experience could play a role, they have enough talent to advance.
Group B: Ghana and Mali
Asamoah Gyan, who's found the net 30 times in 64 appearances for Ghana, will pace the Black Stars offense. He'll be joined by a couple other well-known players, including Kwadwo Asamoah and Anthony Annan, as they attempt to make another deep run.
Unlike many countries, which decided to go with youthful squads, Mali is banking on experience. The Eagles feature 16 players with double-digit international appearances. That includes former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita, who leads the team with 74.
Group C: Nigeria and Zambia
Although all eyes will be on Zambia as it attempts to defend its title, don't be surprised if Nigeria ends up winning the group. The Super Eagles have a balanced roster with players from across Europe, which makes them a solid sleeper choice.
Zambia should still manage to reach the knockout rounds, though. The reason its so dangerous is a deep attack headlined by captain Christopher Katongo. Also keep an eye on Emmanuel Mayuka, who scored a key goal in last year's semifinal triumph over Ghana.
Group D: Ivory Coast and Tunisia
The Ivory Coast enters the tournament as the favorite. The Elephants are the top-ranked team in CAF at No. 14 and certainly possess the most star power. From Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou to Yaya Toure and Siaka Tiene, the Elephants will be tough to stop.
Tunisia hasn't advanced beyond the quarterfinals since winning the title in 2004. This year's squad features a good mix of reliable veterans like Issam Jemaa and talented youngsters such as Aymen Abdennour, giving them a good chance to end that skid.
Champion: Ivory Coast
A high-profile final between Ivory Coast and Ghana is the most likely scenario. The Elephants and Black Stars are the two most talented teams in the tournament by a solid margin, but must be wary of an upstart squad like Zambia last year.
Ultimately, look for the Ivory Coast to come out on top.