AFCON 2019: Dates, Draw Schedule, Live Stream and Predictions

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2019

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah kicks the ball during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Saudi Arabia and Egypt at the Volgograd Arena in Volgograd on June 25, 2018. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
NICOLAS ASFOURI/Getty Images

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off on Friday when hosts Egypt play their opening Group A match against Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium.

The Pharaohs, led by Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, are among the favourites to go all the way to the final in the Egyptian capital on July 19.

Sadio Mane's Senegal, who are in Group C with Algeria, Kenya and Tanzania, will also have designs on winning the tournament, as will the likes of Ghana, Morocco and Nigeria.

Here are the key dates for the tournament:

                     

Friday, June 21: Opening match between Egypt and Zimbabwe

Friday, July 5: Round of 16 begins 

Wednesday, July 10: Quarter-finals begin

Sunday, July 14: Semi-finals 

Wednesday, July 17: Third place play-off

Friday, July 19: Final 

                   

Full schedule can be found at CAFonline.com. Live streaming for all matches will be available via Eurosport Player (UK) and beIN Sports Connect (U.S.).

               

The Africa Cup of Nations has been fairly unpredictable in recent editions, with no one team dominating the tournament.

Egypt won three in a row between 2006 and 2010, but Zambia (2012), Nigeria (2013), Ivory Coast (2015) and Cameroon (2017) have since taken home the trophy.

Two of those triumphsZambia and Ivory Coastwere masterminded by current Morocco manager Herve Renard, who is back again this year in search of an unprecedented AFCON treble:

The problem is, Morocco have been drawn in a punishing Group D with Ivory Coast, South Africa and Namibia. 

However, that could play into the Atlas Lions' hands if they can progress to the knockout stages, because they will have been challenged and played themselves into decent form.

Despite Morocco having the talent in their side to win the whole tournament, they open the campaign against Namibia having lost their final three warm-up games against Argentina, Gambia and Zambia. 

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If there is a clear favourite in the tournament, it is Egypt.

They have not won the Africa Cup of Nations since 2010 and lost the final in 2017 to Cameroon.

This year, though, they have home advantage, a fairly generous group with Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda, and a fit-and-firing Salah.

At last year's 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Liverpool star was not at 100 per cent fitness after being injured in the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid.

This summer, he is fresh from scoring a penalty in the final against Tottenham Hotspur, when the Reds became European champions for a sixth time, and he will be the talisman for an exciting Egypt side.

If they are to win their home tournament, they will have to do so by scoring heavily, as their defence is not the best.

With a forward of Salah's quality, that should not be an issue, and Egypt could well be celebrating come the final on July 19. 

Tournament Predictions: Egypt winners, Morocco runners-up

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