Guide to the 16 teams competing at the African Cup
Best Finish: Champion, 1996.
Coach: Gordon Igesund, South Africa.
Key players: Katlego Mphela (striker), Thulani Serero (midfielder).
FIFA ranking: 87 (No. 23 in Africa).
Summary: While the existing World Cup infrastructure made South Africa the top candidate to replace Libya as host, the national team hasn't got out of the rebuilding stage after a period of post-2010 disappointment. Coach Gordon Igesund faced a race to get Bafana Bafana ready for the country's second big football party in less than three years and may not have had enough time. The task was made immensely harder by the international retirement of playmaker and captain Steven Pienaar. Ineffectiveness up front has been the main problem, meaning strikers Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker, and winger Serero, are crucial to meet the target laid down to Igesund by his bosses: at least a place in the semifinals.
Best Finish: Quarterfinals, 2008 and 2010.
Coach: Gustavo Ferrin, Uruguay.
Key player: Manucho (striker).
FIFA ranking: 84 (No. 21 in Africa).
Summary: Angola's hopes may rest more on the uncertain quality of the teams around it in Group A rather than its own outstanding credentials. Coach Gustavo Ferrin was brought in after the failure at the last tournament and guided it narrowly through qualifying, where former Manchester United forward Manucho again underlined his value with crucial goals. With South Africa possibly weighed down by expectation, Morocco inconsistent and Cape Verde inexperienced, Angola might benefit.
Best Finish: Champion, 1976.
Coach: Rachid Taoussi, Morocco.
Key players: Nadir Lamyaghri (goalkeeper), Younes Belhanda (midfielder).
FIFA ranking: 74 (No. 17 in Africa).
Summary: One of the big disappointments of the last African Cup, when a team of potential coached by experienced Belgian tactician Eric Gerets was eliminated in the first round. Morocco picked itself up from that to qualify for South Africa, but only narrowly as coach Rachid Taoussi masterminded a turnaround against Mozambique after Gerets' exit. Midfielder Younes Belhanda will take on more responsibility after Queens Park Rangers' Adel Taraabt was left out of the final squad amid a major falling out with Taoussi.
Best Finish: First appearance.
Coach: Lucio Antunes, Cape Verde.
Key player: Nando (defender), Ryan Mendes (striker).
FIFA ranking: 69 (No. 15 in Africa).
Summary: An unknown force at major tournaments having never played at one before, Cape Verde eliminated four-time African champion Cameroon in qualifying. Almost the entire squad plays in Europe's lower leagues, although Lille striker Ryan Mendes is highly rated. The first game against South Africa and in front of an expected 90,000 home fans to open the African Cup will be a stern first test for a team completely unfamiliar with the big occasion.
Best Finish: Champion, 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982.
Coach: Kwesi Appiah, Ghana.
Key player: Asamoah Gyan (striker).
FIFA ranking: 30 (No. 4 in Africa).
Summary: Perhaps only Ivory Coast has had a more disappointing recent time at the African Cup. A four-time winner, it has been more than 30 years since Ghana lifted the continental championship after losing two semifinals and a final in the last three tournaments to prolong the agony. A smooth buildup was upset when coach Kewsi Appiah excluded Andre Ayew from his final squad because of the Marseille winger's failure to turn up on time at a training camp, placing even more pressure on captain and forward Asamoah Gyan to lead the attack.
Best Finish: Runner-up, 1972.
Coach: Patrice Carteron, France.
Key player: Seydou Keita (midfielder).
FIFA ranking: 25 (No. 3 in Africa).
Summary: A third-place finish at the last African Cup will boost Mali's confidence in South Africa, as will the victory over 2013 group opponent Ghana in that third-place game last year. Coach Alain Giresse made way for another Frenchman, Patrice Carteron, but Mali will rely on the experience of Seydou Keita in midfield to make its first final in 40 years.
Best Finish: First round.
Coach: Gernot Rohr, Germany.
Key player: Moussa Maazou (striker).
FIFA ranking: 105 (No. 28 in Africa).
Summary: Made its African Cup debut at the last tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea and didn't progress from the group. Likely to face an even tougher challenge in South Africa against Ghana, Mali and a Congo team tipped as a tough customer. Coach Gernot Rohr took co-host Gabon to the quarterfinals last year but won't have the significant advantage of home support this time.
Best Finish: Champion, 1968, 1974.
Coach: Claude Le Roy, France.
Key player: Tresor Mputu (midfielder), Dieumerci Mbokani (striker).
FIFA ranking: 107 (No. 29 in Africa).
Summary: Now in his second spell in charge of Congo, "White Wizard'' Claude Le Roy's African experience of leading Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana before is a big advantage. Tresor Mputu is a goal-scoring midfielder and one of a string of TP Mazembe players in the squad, giving the team a close familiarity. Anderlecht forward Dieumerci Mbokani led the qualifying competition with four goals. Former Newcastle striker Lomana Lua Lua earned a recall at the age of 32 for the two-time champion's first African Cup since 2006, when it made the quarterfinals.
Best Finish: Champion, 2012
Coach: Herve Renard, France.
Key players: Stephen Katongo (midfielder), Jacob Mulenga (striker).
FIFA ranking: 34 (No. 5 in Africa).
Summary: The defending champions were fiercely criticized at home for a poor buildup, where they lost three straight before a pair of 0-0 draws with Morocco and Norway. Coach Herve Renard retained much of the winning team from the emotional victory in Gabon just under 12 months ago, when the Zambians returned to the site of the air tragedy that killed their 1993 team to lift their first major title. There is some doubt they will be able to repeat that fairytale, but Renard said the 2013 squad is better than the 2012 one.
Best Finish: Champion, 1980, 1994.
Coach: Stephen Keshi, Nigeria.
Key players: John Obi Mikel (midfielder), Victor Moses (striker).
FIFA ranking: 52 (No. 10 in Africa).
Summary: Having surprisingly failed to qualify for the 2012 Cup of Nations, Nigeria wasn't going to miss out twice in a row. New coach Stephen Keshi adopted a no-nonsense approach in an effort to lift the Super Eagles, discarding West Bromwich striker Peter Odemwingie for his disruptive nature. If Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses play to their potential, Nigeria will be solid in midfield and dangerous up front - and a tough prospect for any team.
Best Finish: Semifinals, 1998.
Coach: Paul Put, Belgium.
Key player: Alain Traore (striker)
FIFA ranking: 89 (No. 24 in Africa).
Summary: The presence of Zambia and Nigeria means it's unlikely that Burkina Faso will be able to get out of Group C and have a chance at matching its last-four finish in 1998 - the only time it's been past the first round. Injury doubts over lead striker and key player Alain Traore of France's Lorient makes the mission even tougher.
Best Finish: Champion, 1962.
Coach: Sewnet Bishaw, Ethiopia.
Key player: Yussuf Saleh (midfielder), Saladin Seid (striker).
FIFA ranking: 110 (No. 31 in Africa).
Summary: Ethiopia was one of the three founding members of the African Cup of Nations alongside Egypt and Sudan only to go missing from the finals for 37 years before returning in 2013. Coach Sewnet Bishaw made some surprising selections for his final 23-man squad but forward Saladin Seid, whose goals saw the former champion through qualifying, was included. Also picked was former United States under-17 international Fuad Ibrahim, a 21-year-old striker for the Minnesota Stars.
Best Finish: Champion, 1992.
Coach: Sabri Lamouchi, France.
Key player: Yaya Toure (midfielder), Gervinho (striker).
FIFA ranking: 14 (No. 1 in Africa).
Summary: The African Cup has become an increasingly painful experience for Ivory Coast, which lost two of the last four finals on penalties. Blessed with Africa's richest footballing talent for nearly a decade now, the Ivorians are still to add to their solitary title in 1992. At 34, captain Didier Drogba is running out of chances to win a major trophy with his country. Yaya Toure, the 2012 African player of the year, and Gervinho had ultimately disappointing tournaments a year ago and their form will be key to the team's hopes of finally living up to its top ranking and tag as title favorite.
Best Finish: Champion, 2004.
Coach: Sami Trabelsi, Tunisia.
Key players: Youssef Msakni (midfielder), Issam Jemaa (striker).
FIFA ranking: 45 (No. 8 in Africa).
Summary: Little has changed for the Tunisians since they reached the quarterfinals in 2012 and fell to Ghana. Issam Jemaa is still their squad's most experienced player and Sami Trabelsi the coach. The last time Trabelsi was in South Africa for a Cup of Nations, he was a member of the squad that made the final only to lose to the hosts in 1996. The Tunisians are a constantly solid performer at the continental championship but will have their work cut out for them in 2013 with Ivory Coast, Algeria and Togo also fighting for quarterfinal places.
Best Finish: Champion, 1990.
Coach: Vahid Hallihodzic, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Key player: Islam Slimani (striker).
FIFA ranking: 19 (No. 2 in Africa).
Summary: Almost unnoticed, Algeria has emerged as the No. 2-ranked team in Africa after missing out on the 2012 finals and was strong and efficient in qualifying. Islam Slimani and Hilal Soudani give coach Vahid Hallihodzic good attacking options alongside Parma's Ishak Belfodil. A first-up game against North African rival Tunisia will define both countries' campaign. Algeria's inclusion also means 10 of the 16 teams at the tournament in South Africa are former champions.
Best Finish: First round.
Coach: Didier Six, France.
Key player: Emmanuel Adebayor (striker).
FIFA ranking: 71 (No. 16 in Africa).
Summary: It's all about Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese are a much better team with the Tottenham striker but it's still uncertain if his presence will be a galvanizing force or a divisive factor for the entire group. He initially turned his back on the team for the tournament, only to be convinced to play by the country's president. The head of the football federation demanded coach Didier Six take certain players, including Adebayor, to the finals, which hasn't helped the players focus on football and the championship's toughest group.