For the first time in the competition's 53-year history, the 2010 African Nations Cup will be only the second biggest football spectacle to hit the continent this year. But after months of hype surrounding the World Cup in South Africa, the Nations Cup will emerge from the shadows in Angola on Sunday and provide us with a month of great goals, shock results and bright new footballing talent.
Egypt will be aiming to bounce back from World Cup play-off defeat to rivals Algeria to become the first team in the competition's history to lift the trophy three times, while other favourites Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon also have their eye on the continent's biggest prize. Be prepared for some shock results as well, with the likes of Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia keen to prove that they are not just in Angola to make up the numbers.
This is ESPN Soccernet's comprehensive guide to the 2010 African Nations Cup.
Coach: Manuel José
Captain: Manucho (in the absence of Andre Makanga)
Nickname: The Black Antelopes
Cup record: Quarter-finals 2008; Qualified five times
This year's hosts will become the first Portuguese-speaking nation to stage the tournament and go into the competition looking to build on their quarter-final appearance in 2008. The goals of Manucho helped them past the more established South Africa and Senegal two years ago, before they were edged out 2-1 by eventual winners Egypt. This time around they are aiming to emulate the likes of Tunisia in 2004 and Egypt in 2006 to become the 11th host nation to lift the title on home turf, though they will have to do it without inspirational captain Andre Makanga who is injured.
Qualification: Angola qualified automatically as hosts but participated in the simultaneous World Cup qualifying campaign. After reaching their inaugural World Cup in 2006, 2010 qualifying was bitterly disappointing as Benin beat the Black Antelopes to first in the group and Angola were left to rue a loss to the Cranes of Uganda, as they missed out on progression to the final round as one of the best runners-up.
One to watch: Flavio - The striker has been in fine form for Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab since his move from Egyptian giants Al-Ahly last year and was Angola's top scorer (with three goals) in their ill-fated World Cup qualifying campaign.
Trivia: In their first World Cup appearance in 2006, Angola were eliminated at the group stage after draws with Iran and Mexico and defeat to Portugal. Flavio scored their only goal of the tournament, in the 1-1 draw with Iran.
Soccernet prediction: Even with a roaring home support, injuries to key players means escaping Group A may be too difficult for the host nation. Group Stage.
Goalkeepers: Carlos Fernandes (Rio Ave, Portugal), Lama (Petro Atletico), Wilson (Recreativo Caala)
Defenders: Dias Caires (Sagrada Esperanca), Enoque (Santos), Jamuana (Petro Atletico), Kali (Arles-Avignon, France), Mabina (Petro Atletico), Rui Marques (Leeds United), Stelvio (Uniao Leiria)
Midfielders: David (Petro Atletico), Dede (Arles-Avignon, France), Djalma (Maritimo, Portugal), Gilberto (Al Ahli, Egypt), Job, Xara (both Petro Atletico), Ze Kalanga (Dinamo Bucharest), Zuela (Kuban Krasnodar, Russia)
Forwards: Flavio (Al Shabab), Johnson Makaba (Recreativo Libolo), Love (Primeiro Agosto), Mantorras (Benfica), Manucho (Real Valladolid)
Coach: Stephen Keshi
Captain: Mahamadou Diarra
Nickname: The Eagles
Cup record: Runners-up 1972; Qualified six times
Led by star La Liga pairing Frederic Kanoute and Seydou Keita, Mali will be hoping for a Nations Cup showing more akin to their fourth place finishes in 2002 and 2004 than there poor display at the 2008 tournament. Two years ago they managed just one goal as they crashed out at the group stages after failing to qualify at all in 2006. Mali are currently ranked as the seventh best team on the continent, with their best Nations Cup finish coming in 1972, when they were beaten in the final by Congo.
Qualification: The goals of Kanoute (8) and Keita (6) helped edge the Eagles through the first round of qualifying at the top of Group 10, though defeats against Congo and Sudan were less than impressive. The final round saw two wins, three draws, and just one defeat, but it was that 2-0 home loss to Ghana that proved crucial as Mali missed out on World Cup qualification, finishing third behind the Black Stars and Benin.
One to watch: Seydou Keita - The Barcelona midfielder has been in fine form for the Catalans this season, netting six La Liga goals and tasting success in the Spanish and European Super Cups, and World Club Cup.
Trivia: Mali and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute is the only European-born player to win the African Footballer of the Year award, picking up the award back in 2007.
Soccernet prediction: It was a poor Nations Cup showing last time out, but if Keita and Kanoute are firing on all cylinders, expect to see the Eagles progress. Quarter Finals.
Goalkeepers: Mahamadou Sidibe (Athlitikos Omonoia), Oumar Sissoko (Metz), Soumbeyla Diakite (Stade Bamako).
Defenders: Adama Tamboura (Helsingborg), Amadou Sidibe (Auxerre), Adama Coulibaly (Auxerre), Bakary Soumare (Boulogne), Souleymane Diamouténé (Bari), Ousmane Berthe (Jomo Cosmos) , Drissa Diakite (OGC Nic), Abdoulaye Maiga (Mali Bamako Stade).
Midfielders: Seydou Keita (FC Barcelona), Mahamadou Diarra (Real Madrid), Bakaye Traore (Nancy), Sidi Yaya Keita (Xerez), El Hadj Mahamane Traoré (OGC Nice), Mohamed Sissoko (Juventus), Abdou Traore (Bordeaux), Lassana Fane (El Merreikh).
Forwards: Mamadou Bagayoko (OGC Nice), Mamadou Samassa (Valenciennes), Frederic Kanoute (Sevilla), Modibo Maiga (Le Mans), Moustapha Yattabaré (Clermont), Tenema Ndiaye (FC Nantes), Mamadou Diallo (Le Havre).
Coach: Kinnah Phiri
Captain: Peter Mponda
Nickname: The Flames
Cup record: First round 1984, Qualified twice
Undoubtedly the biggest underdogs at this year's tournament, Malawi are ranked 99th in the world and 23rd on the continent, but they take their place in the Nations Cup field ahead of the likes of Senegal, South Africa and Morocco. It is only the second time the Flames will compete in the tournament and their first appearance since 1984, when a 2-2 draw with Nigeria was the only highlight as they crashed out at the group stage. A 0-0 draw with fancied Ghana in a pre-tournament friendly shows that Malawi will be no pushovers.
Qualification: The Flames finished second behind Egypt in the first. Malawi were drawn in a tricky second-round group including the dominant Ivory Coast, Guinea -quarter-finalists in each of the past three Nations Cups -and Burkina Faso. Topping the group was never a realistic aim but a third-place finish was acclaimed as a resounding success, with the goals of Chiukeo Msowoya helping the Flames to an impressive 1-1 draw with the Elephants en route to securing their spot.
One to watch: Chiukepo Msowoya - The ESCOM United player is being tracked by a number of European clubs. At 21, the talented striker is a relatively inexperienced international player but inspired his more experienced Flames team-mates with six goals during the qualifying phases for this year's tournament. A bright future lays ahead for this young man.
Trivia: Leyton Orient's Tamika Mkandawire is regarded as one Malawi's best players but is prevented from playing for the country. He holds dual-citizenship in the UK - due to having Malawian father and English mother - but the country does not recognise dual-citizenship, meaning the League One star may never represent his father's country.
Soccernet prediction: Just being at the tournament - back among the continent's elite - is a massive achievement for the Flames, and they will have to be content with that as the others in Group A will prove too strong. Group Stage.
Goalkeepers: Simplex Nthala (Wanderers), Swadick Sanudi (Dynamos, South Africa), Charles Swini (ESCOM United).
Defenders: Moses Chavula (Nathi Lions), Elvis Kafoteka (ESCOM United), Allan Kamanga (Dynamos, Peter Mponda (Black Leopards), Maupo Msowoya (ESCOM United), Harry Nyirenda (Wanderers), James Sangala (Primeiro Agosto).
Midfielders: Davie Banda (Red Lions), Joseph Kamwendo (Orlando Pirates), Fisher Kondowe (Black Leopards), Hellings Mwakasungula (Silver Strikers), Robert Ngambi (Black Leopards), Jacob Ngwira (Carara Kicks), Peter Wadabwa (Thanda Royals Zulu).
Strikers: Esau Kanyenda (FC Kamaz), Chiukepo Msowoya (Deportivo Muculmana), Russell Mwafulirwa (IFK Norrkoping), Victor Nyirenda (ESCOM United), Atusaye Nyondo (Carara Kicks) and Jimmy Zakazaka (Bay United).
Coach: Rabah Saâdane
Captain: Yazid Mansouri
Nickname: The Desert Foxes
Cup record: Winners 1990; Qualified 14 times
Algeria's only African Nations Cup triumph came as hosts of the 1990 tournament, with goal from Chérif Oudjani enough to beat Nigeria 1-0 in the final. But since that victory, the Desert Foxes have never got past the quarter-finals, failing to qualify for the past two tournaments. Those two no-shows were made worse by the fact that bitter rivals Egypt took home the title on both occasions. But in November, Algeria took their revenge by qualifying for the World Cup at Egypt's expense and will now be determined to prove that they can be the dominant North-African team.
Qualification: The first qualifying group saw Senegal and Gambia held off before the final round drew them with Egypt. A 3-1 win against the Pharaohs put the Desert Foxes in the driving seat but the final group match against the African champions in Cairo saw Egypt secure a 2-0 victory and the two were tied at the top of the group. Both nations qualified ahead of Zambia in third, though a play-off was contested to decide which side would progress to the World Cup.
One to watch: Karim Ziani - The Wolfsburg playmaker was Algeria's top scorer in qualifying and played every game. A positive player, he has the ability to unlock defences with a pass or a dribble and provides valuable top-level experience having played in the Champions League for the current German champions and for previous club Marseille.
Trivia: The Desert Foxes made history in 1986 as the first African side to qualify for two World Cup Finals in succession. The side, containing the likes of Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi, performed admirably at Spain '82 and Mexico '86, most notably defeating eventual runners-up West Germany 2-1 in the group stages of the 1982 tournament.
Soccernet prediciton: Expectations are high in Algeria after the successful qualifying campaign. They will come through this group but may come undone facing sides of better quality. Quarter finals.
Goalkeepers: Lounes Gaouaoui (ASO Chlef), Fawzi Chaouchi (ES Setif), Mohamed Amine Zemmamouche (MC Algiers)
Defenders: Slimane Raho (ES Setif), Madjid Bougherra (Rangers, Scotland), Rafik Halliche (Nacional, Portugal), Anthar Yahia (Bochum/Germany), Samir Zaoui (ASO Chlef), Abdelkader Laifaoui (ES Setif), Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth, England), Reda Baabouche (MC Algiers)
Midfielders: Hassen Yebda (Portsmouth, England), Yazid Mansouri (Lorient), Khaled Lemmouchia (ES Setif), Mourad Meghni (Lazio), Karim Ziani (Wolfsburg), Karim Matmour (Borussia Monchengladbach), Yacine Bezzaz (Strasbourg, France), Hameur Bouazza (Blackpool), Djamal Abdoun (Nantes)
Forwards: Rafik Saifi (Al-Khor), Abdelkader Mohamed Ghezzal (Siena), Abdelmalik Ziaya (ES Setif)