CHAN: what you need to know about the 7th edition

Perceived as a local CAN, the CHAN, whose first version dates back to 2009, will start this Friday in Algeria. Without Morocco, package, Tunisia and Egypt, who did not deign to commit, but with the main continental powers (Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, DR Congo), in brand new stadiums or largely overhauled.

Friday in Baraki, in the suburbs of Algiers, the kick-off of the seventh edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN), a competition exclusively reserved for African players playing in their national championship, will be given on the occasion of the match between Algeria and Libya. Two years ago in Cameroon, Morocco, already winners in 2018 on home soil, won there, equaling DR Congo, crowned in 2009 and 2016. But the defending champion withdrew for political reasons. Tunisia (2011) and Libya (2014) are the other selections to have entered their names on the list of winners of a tournament currently dominated by North Africans.

Algeria has built and renovated a lot

Since CAN 1990, which it had also won, Algeria had not organized the final phase of an international competition. Candidate to organize the CHAN and designated by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), in September 2018, she put the means to meet the requirements of the specifications. The CHAN, which should have initially taken place last August, was postponed for a few months due to the health crisis. Four stadiums will host the competition: that of Baraki (Nelson-Mandela stadium), freshly built, that of Oran (Miloud-Hadefi), which hosted the last Mediterranean Games in June 2022 and is also brand new, while those of Annaba (May 19, 1956) and Constantine (Mohamed-Hamlaoui) have been renovated. “Most Algerian stadiums were old and dilapidated, and today the country has modern and functional stadiums” , confirms Ali Fergani, the former captain and then coach of the Fennecs. Other stadiums, in Tizi Ouzou or Douéra, near Algiers, are nearing completion. Even if all this cost a lot of money, as the other would say…

Today we play at seventeen

They were nine in 2009, then sixteen from 2011 and until 2021. This year, the CHAN should have concerned, before Morocco’s package on January 12, eighteen selections, a unique case in the world for an international competition. . This decision was taken last May by CAF, in order to allow two zones (UNAF and WAFU) to have an additional place in the final phase. Forty-seven teams took part in the qualifiers, but countries such as Gabon, Tunisia and Egypt had decided not to enter. The passage from sixteen to eighteen teams in the final phase obviously affected the constitution of the groups: the A (Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Mozambique), B (Uganda, Senegal, DR Congo, Ivory Coast) and C ( Morocco, Madagascar, the only novelty, Ghana, Sudan) are made up of four teams, while the other two will only be three (Mali, Angola and Mauritania for group D, Cameroon, Niger and Congo for group E) . The first two of each group of four and the first of the groups of three will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Seven A coaches in charge

Of the eighteen qualified teams, seven will be led by the A coaches. These are Libya (Corentin Martins), Mozambique (Chiquinho Condé), Mauritania (Amir Abdou), Sudan (Burhan Tia) , Ethiopia (Wubetu Abate), Uganda (Milutin Sredojevic) and Angola (Pedro Gonçalves). But others, like the French Sébastien Desabre (DR Congo) and Jean-Michel Cavalli (Niger) will be there. “It’s an opportunity to see players I know from having watched them at club level, but to watch them evolve in another context” explains Desabre, who will not intervene in the tactical choices of Otis Ngoma, the Congolese coach. “I have several international A who will participate in CHAN, because there are a lot of locals in my team, which is the case of other selections present in Algeria” confirms Cavalli.

Morocco gives up

Relations between Algeria and Morocco have not been the warmest lately, and this was confirmed by the latter’s decision to forfeit the day before the start of the tournament. The two countries severed diplomatic relations in August 2021, over the still sensitive issue of Western Sahara. The threat of a Moroccan package hovered for a few days, for an air link affair. Indeed, Algerian airspace is closed to Moroccan aircraft, and the authorities in Algiers were by no means prepared to make an exception for Royal Air Maroc aircraft. The local Atlas Lions, who were due to play their first-round matches in Constantine, were hoping to fly direct from Rabat. The Algerians refused, advising Moroccans to come from another country, Tunisia for example. The latter refused, and it is likely that CAF will sanction the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF), even though CAF had asked Algeria to relax the rules for the occasion.

By Alexis Billebault

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