Afcon: The Defending Champions ‘Curse’

Ivory Coast’s chance of retaining the Afcon title was reduced to zero after a 1-0 loss to Morocco on Wednesday  in a final group C match day.

The Elephants join a long list of defending champions who previously failed to conquer the consequent group stage hurdle.

Brief History.

The Africa cup of nations was first held in 1957 with three participating teams –Egypt, capsule Sudan and Ethiopia- in a round robin format. Egypt are the inaugural and also record Champions.

The group stages were introduced in 1968 where eight teams took part in two pools with the top two in each advancing to the knock outs.

DR Congo, the 1968 champions, became the first title holders who failed to leave the groups. The Leopards finished bottom with one point in a group that had United Arab Republic, Ghana and Guinea in the 1970 finals held in Sudan.

Only two holding winners, Congo –Brazzaville (1972) and Ghana (1984 champions) managed to progress from the groups during the eight-team tournament era from 1968 to 1990.

Ivory Coast won the 92’ edition and finished third in the subsequent tournament in Tunisia. Both tourneys had 12 teams before the current 16 team format was introduced in 96.

Sixteen-team era

The system metamorphosed to the sixteen-team format in the South Africa 1996 games. Nigeria, the defending champions, withdrew from the tourney leaving only 15 teams.

Egypt 2012

The Pharaohs became the first reigning champions to fail the qualification test after a historical treble in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Political instability in the North African country forced the Egyptian football association and the government to suspend the local league.

Absense of a local competitive league affected the Pharaohs’ level of competence and dipped so low that they failed to qualify for the 2012 finals, registering only a single win in the qualifiers. They had Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone in the pool.

Zambia 2013

The Chipolopolo succeeded Egypt in 2012, in a fairy tale run spearheaded by experienced coach Herve Renard. The subsequent tournament was a bitter pill for the nation who failed to make the quarter final grades.

Zambia accumulated only three points from their three draws against Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Nigeria 2015

The Super Eagles reigned in South Africa 2013 under legendary coach Stephen Keshi (RIP), and two years later, the three time giants could not scheme a plan to overcome South Africa or Congo. They finished third just ahead of Sudan.

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