Monday Sep 23, 2019. 17:00
The 2019 WAFU Cup of Nations gets underway in Senegal this coming weekend, with 16 teams looking to be crowned the kings of the West African region.
This year marks the fifth full edition of the WAFU regional tournament, which was first founded in 2002 (though that year’s tournament was abandoned due to the civil war in the Ivory Coast).
Tournaments in 2010 and 2011 were held in Nigeria and won by the host team and Togo respectively, while Ghana have both hosted and won the last two tournaments in 2013 and 2017.
As the tournament falls outside of FIFA’s international windows, it does not feature senior national team regulars. Instead, federations use the WAFU Cup of Nations as a testing ground for their most promising up-and-coming locally-based youngsters, making it a window into the future of some of the continent’s top teams.
In 2019 the competition moves to Senegal, with the Stade Lat-Dior in Thies set to host all of the matches, while a guest team – Morocco – is also present. The North Africans replaced Sierra Leone, who were banned from internationals by FIFA and have only recently returned from their sanction.
The tournament opens with a last 16 round from 28 September to 1 October in which the field will be divided in two: the winners advance into the full Cup competition, while the losers drop into the Plate competition. It’s a straight knockout format from there on in.
Hosts Senegal will open the finals on Saturday when they face Guinea-Bissau, while the other match scheduled for that day sees defending champions Ghana take on Gambia.
Sunday features a clash of former champions as Nigeria take on Togo, before guest side Morocco tackle Liberia.
Monday 30 September sees Mali and Ivory coast take on Niger and Cape Verde respectively, before the first round of matches wraps up on Tuesday 1 October with Burkina Faso v Mauritania and Guinea v Benin.
The Cup final will be played on Sunday 13 October.