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Morocco declines chance to host 2019 Africa Cup of Nations

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Cameroon's Benjamin Moukandjo celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the African Cup of Nations in Gabon. Reuters / Mike Hutchings Livepic

African football chiefs face the prospect of scavenging for a country to stage the Africa Cup of Nations in June 2019 after Morocco said it would not replace Cameroon as the organiser of the continent's most prestigious national team competition.


Rachid Talbi Alami, Morocco's sports minister, told AFP: "Morocco does not intend to run for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and will not do so."

Alami's country had been considered as favourites to stand in for Cameroon following the decision of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to withdraw hosting rights from the west African country over its lack of readiness for next summer's tournament. There were also concerns over attacks from insurgency groups.

Morocco should have held the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations but was banned after it requested a postponement because it was worried about the outbreak of ebola in west Africa. Equatorial Guinea stepped in as hosts.

Innovations

Four years ago and also at the last competition in Gabon four sites were required for the 16 teams.

The 2019 tournament will be the first to be held in June and July rather than January/February. It will also be the first to feature 24 teams and will need at least five venues to accommodate the matches of the four teams in each of the six pools.

The top two teams from the six groups and the four best third placed sides will advance to the round of 16. From then it will be a knockout competition to determine the successors to Cameroon who claimed the crown in 2017 in Gabon.

"A 24 team competition is beyond the logistical capabilities of many African nations but not all," said Peter Alegi, an author of several books on football in Africa. "So the solution may be returning more frequently to the larger countries."

Alegi, a professor in the history department at Michigan State University, added: "But other solutions may be more co-hosting of tournaments or something more akin to what we will see at Euro 2020 where essentially you will have a pan-European tournament with major cities all across Europe hosting matches. Perhaps we could have that kind of arrangement.

"Otherwise it does look grim for a small nation to deliver a 24 team Africa Cup of Nations on African soil."

Caf says it will decide next month which nation will host the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations.