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South Africa lose out on right to host 2019 AFCON spectacle

AFCON 2015 (Supplied)
AFCON 2015 (Supplied)

Dakar - Egypt will host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations between June 15 and July 13, Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad announced in Dakar on Tuesday.   

The CAF executive committee preferred Egypt to South Africa as replacements for original hosts Cameroon, who were dropped due to delays in preparations and concerns over security.

"I am pleased to announce that Egypt will host CAN (Cup of Nations) 2019," Malagasy Ahmad told reporters.

"I want to thank the two countries - they came to the rescue of the CAF when we saw that the evolution of the work in Cameroon was not developed."

A CAF official told AFP that Egypt received 16 votes from the executive committee, South Africa one and there was one abstention. 

Ahmad made the announcement just hours after CAF said it would not disclose the winner until Wednesday to allow the media to concentrate on the annual awards ceremony in Dakar later Tuesday.

It 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.

Egypt only entered the running to host the Cup of Nations when fellow north African country Morocco announced they would not bid to do so.

Morocco were the hot media favourites to replace Cameroon as hosts and Egypt said they "did not want to compete against a fellow Arab nation". 

Egypt boast many international-standard venues with the Cairo International Stadium (72 000) and Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria (87 000) boasting the largest capacities.

Ismailia, Port Said and Suez are other possible venues for tournament matches as the Cup of Nations returns to north Africa after a 13-year absence.  

The choice of Egypt will immediately make them favourites to win a record-extending eighth Cup of Nations title this year. 

They 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.

The star of the current team, Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah, is favourite to retain the African Player of the Year award in Dakar.

Security and weather will be two challenges facing Egypt in the first Cup of Nations to feature 24 teams, up from 16 in Gabon two years ago.

Egypt faces a constant terror threat in the volatile Middle East region and the weather during the tournament is expected to be hot and humid.

Djamel Belmadi, coach of 2019 qualifiers Algeria, said recently that he would prefer South Africa to host the tournament because of the cooler weather conditions there.

"It is almost impossible to play (in Egypt) given the heat and humidity," he told the Algerian media. "The weather conditions in South Africa are more pleasant." 

Egyptian football official Karam Kordi responded: "It would be better if Belmadi said he was afraid of the enthusiastic Egyptian supporters."

Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda have qualified for the 2019 tournament. 

The other 10 places will be filled after the final qualifiers between March 18 and 26.

South Africa sit in second spot in Group E of their 2019 AFCON qualifying campaign after a recent 1-1 draw against Nigeria in their penultimate match, that saw the Super Eagles secure qualification.

To book their place to Egypt, Baxter's men need to avoid defeat against war-torn Libya - who are two points behind in Group E - with the match set to take place on March 22, 2019 at a neutral venue.

Complete list of Africa Cup of Nations hosts after Egypt were awarded the 2019 edition following a Confederation of African Football executive committee meeting in Dakar on Tuesday:

5: Egypt (1959, 1974, 1986, 2006, 2019)

4: Ghana (1963, 1978, 2000, 2008) 

3: Ethiopia (1962, 1968, 1976), Tunisia (1965, 1994, 2004)

2: Gabon (2012, 2017), Equatorial Guinea (2012, 2015), Nigeria (1980, 2000), South Africa (1996, 2013), Sudan (1957, 1970)

1: Algeria (1990), Angola (2010), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1972), Ivory Coast (1984), Libya (1982), Mali (2002), Morocco (1988), Senegal (1992)   

Note: the 2000 (Ghana/Nigeria) and 2012 (Equatorial Guinea/Gabon) tournaments were co-hosted

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