All is set for the 29th edition of the Africa cup of Nations as the teams are ready to battle for the continent's biggest soccer trouphy as CAF is ready to maintain the AFCON as the third biggest world football fiesta.
(WFI) Secretary General Hicham El Amrani says the Confederation of African Football is “very optimistic” about the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicking off Saturday in South Africa.
"We want to maintain AFCON as the third-biggest soccer event after the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship," he was quoted Friday by the South African Press Association.
"In general we are very optimistic about this tournament," he added, thanking the South African organizers, who stepped in to stage the tournament after CAF stripped hosting rights from Libya due to its recent civil war.
El Amrani was speaking at CAF’s opening press conference in Sandton alongside Mvuso Mbebe, CEO of the Local Organizing Committee.
"We have surpassed the 500,000 mark in ticket sales, which we had planned, but people are still talking about poor ticket sales," Mbebe was quoted by SAPA, criticizing South African media.
"We have never sold this number of tickets at this stage of the tournament,” El Amrani agreed.
"South Africa had a year or so to prepare for this tournament. We have to appreciate what they have done.”
Mbebe added: "When we started this journey, we said we would try our best to make the continent proud, make CAF proud, and ensure spectators get a good experience.
"We have tried our best, and there will no doubt be glitches along the way and challenges in certain areas, but we believe we are ready."
The Road Ahead
Group A (South Africa, Angola, Morocco, Cape Verde) begins play on Saturday in Johannesburg;
Group B (Ghana, Mali, Niger, Congo DR) begins on Sunday in Port Elizabeth;
Group C (Zambia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia) on Monday in Nelspruit; and
Group D (Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Algeria, Togo) on Tuesday in Rustenburg.
Durban will also host one Group B and three Group A matches during preliminary play.
Quarterfinals kick off Feb. 2 and 3 in Port Elizabeth, Nelspruit, Rustenburg and Durban with the semifinals scheduled for Feb. 6 in Durban and Nelspruit.
Johannesburg, which also hosted the climax of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, will stage the Feb. 10 final of AFCON 2013.