MOSCOW (AP) — A guide to the teams in Pot 3 in Friday's draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia:
The tiny Central American country reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup four years ago, losing to the Netherlands on a penalty shootout.
This will be Costa Rica's fifth World Cup appearance, impressive for a country with a population just under 5 million. Bryan Ruiz is the main attacking threat, while Celso Borges of is a midfield linchpin.
ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Kenya was stripped of the right to host the 2018 African Nations Championship because of delays in its preparations and the Confederation of African Football opened a new bidding process on Sunday, giving itself just a week to find a new country.
The African champion won't be in Russia for next year's World Cup.
Cameroon was the first team to be eliminated in the final round of qualifying in Africa after drawing with Nigeria 1-1 at home on Monday.
The competition between Nigeria and Cameroon will draw the most attention when World Cup qualifying in Africa returns with two matches squeezed into six days.
While Nigeria and Cameroon tussle over one qualifying place available in their group, there are other intriguing possibilities for next year's World Cup in Russia:
The Confederation of African Football's executive committee approved two major changes to the continent's top soccer tournament on Thursday, expanding it from 16 to 24 teams from 2019 and moving it from the beginning of the year to June-July.
CAF expects the first change to significantly increase revenue from the African Cup of Nations, its flagship tournament, and follows the lead of the European Championship, which expanded to 24 teams last year.
The African Cup might be going out of Africa.
The United States, China or Qatar could be asked to host the African Cup of Nations in radical changes proposed Wednesday to give the continent's biggest soccer tournament the global exposure it craves. The proposals were set out in a presentation to the Confederation of African Football by Philippe Antoine, as the spokesman for the Marketing and TV working group.
Three former champions lost at home at the start of the final round of qualifying for the 2019 African Cup of Nations on Saturday, with Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Zambia all slipping up.
Ivory Coast was beaten by Guinea 3-2 after leading 1-0 and 2-1, Nigeria lost to South Africa 2-0, and Zambia was upset by Mozambique 1-0.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Stuart Baxter was appointed coach of South Africa on Thursday, ending a long search that began when his predecessor was fired last year for misconduct.
Baxter will take charge of South Africa for the second time after coaching the team from 2004-05. His first stint ended after South Africa failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — The Malawi soccer association says it will withdraw from the qualifying competition for the 2019 African Cup of Nations because it can't afford to fund its team's campaign.
The Football Association of Malawi says it still needs to officially inform the Confederation of African Football of its intention to withdraw. It says it's also pulling out of next year's African Nations Championship.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Cameroon rose again after years of underachievement to win the African Cup of Nations title on Sunday with a fabulous goal in the 89th minute of the final for a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against mighty Egypt.
As the final whistle got nearer, substitute Vincent Aboubakar controlled the ball just outside the area, clipped it over a defender, and then shot past the goalkeeper to clinch Cameroon's fifth African title and first since 2002.
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — Alain Traore fired in an 89th-minute free kick to give Burkina Faso a 1-0 win over Ghana in the third-place match at the African Cup of Nations on Saturday, the game that no one wants to play.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Only a tiny minority of African soccer players achieve stardom and the rich rewards that go with it. Some of them will feature in Sunday's African Cup of Nations final, while for thousands of journeymen professionals on this continent, it's not a beautiful game but an ugly and abusive system that has let them down badly.
FRANCEVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Cameroon didn't need its big-name players to make the African Cup of Nations final.
Instead, Cameroon's youngsters — described by their coach as a bunch of friends who just like to play football — knocked out mighty Ghana on Thursday and set up a title decider against record seven-time champion Egypt.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Egypt's 44-year-old goalkeeper made two saves in a penalty shootout win over Burkina Faso on Wednesday to lead the African Cup of Nations' most successful team back into the final after seven years of hurt.
Essam el-Hadary dived high to his left to save from Burkina Faso goalkeeper Kouakou Koffi, and then stopped the decisive penalty from Bertrand Traore to make the record seven-time winner's return to the African Cup a joyous one.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Egypt and its 44-year-old goalkeeper still haven't conceded a goal at this African Cup of Nations. The Pharaohs' formidable defense and some other things to know ahead of the African Cup semifinals, which are Egypt vs. Burkina Faso on Wednesday and Ghana vs. Cameroon on Thursday:
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Egypt has a history of success at the African Cup of Nations for its inspiration. Semifinal opponent Burkina Faso got a phone call from Jose Mourinho.
The first semi at the African championship in Gabon on Wednesday pits Egypt, with seven titles, against Burkina Faso, with none, and yet the story is not so simple.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Ghana goalkeeper Razak Brimah has been fined $2,500 for an expletive-laden tirade in a video posted on social media during the African Cup of Nations that was aimed at fans who had criticized his performances.
The Ghana Football Association announced the punishment on Tuesday, two days ahead of Ghana's African Cup semifinal match against Cameroon in Gabon. Razak will be able to play in that game.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Senegal's heartbreaking loss in the African Cup of Nations could be Liverpool's gain in the Premier League.
Sadio Mane, Senegal's star player, was in despair after missing the decisive spot kick in a penalty shootout loss to Cameroon in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Gabon.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — The fallen giant of the African Cup of Nations is rising again as Egypt became the final team on Sunday to force its way into the semifinals amid late drama.
The record seven-time champion, held back by years of political upheaval back home, returned to the last four for the first time since 2010 with an 87th-minute winner over Morocco in the last quarterfinal in Gabon.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Michel Dussuyer has resigned as coach of Ivory Coast after the defending champion failed to advance from the group stage at the African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
The Frenchman's exit was confirmed by the Ivory Coast Football Federation on Sunday.
Dussuyer was in charge of the Ivorian team for just 18 months, having taken over the African champion from Frenchman Herve Renard.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Senegal and Sadio Mane blew it at the African Cup of Nations, with the title favorite's star player missing the decisive spot kick in a penalty shootout loss to Cameroon in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Mane saw his penalty, Senegal's fifth and final, saved by Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph Ondoa. Stunned, Mane turned to face his dejected teammates on the halfway line and muttered something under his breath.
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — Ghana has serious injury concerns over captain Asamoah Gyan ahead of the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals, while Senegal has no problems at all with the goal-scoring form of Sadio Mane.
Egypt, after seven years of struggle, is back in the big time and faces North African rival Morocco for a place in the last four. Congo, Tunisia and Burkina Faso are the teams looking to surprise.
Some things to know and players to watch as the knockout stages begin this weekend:
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — Seven years of soccer gloom might be slowly lifting for Egypt.
The African Cup of Nations' most successful team made it back to the quarterfinals on Wednesday, beating one of the title contenders along the way. A 1-0 win over Ghana ensured its long-awaited return to the championship will continue for at least a little while longer.
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — The curse of the defending champion struck Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations and Congo put a strike over money well behind it to dance into the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
The titleholder and a team of big stars from European clubs, Ivory Coast didn't even make it past the group stage in its defense, crashing out without winning a game.
GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — German club Schalke says defender Baba Rahman will be sidelined for "several months" after undergoing surgery on a knee injury sustained at the African Cup of Nations.
Schalke says Rahman's "injury to his left knee was found to be worse than was initially forecasted after his operation in Augsburg yesterday. It presented a picture of a complex rupture to his cruciate ligament along with tears to his internal and external cartilage."
FRANCEVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Algeria coach George Leekens has resigned following the team's early exit from the African Cup of Nations.
Algeria, among the pre-tournament favorites, failed to win a match in Gabon. The Desert Foxes finished third in Group B, losing to Tunisia and drawing with Zimbabwe and Senegal.
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — Algeria was eliminated from the African Cup of Nations in Gabon in a goal rush in the final games in Group B on Monday.
The one-time title contender drew with Senegal 2-2 and learned Tunisia went through to the quarterfinals in its place by beating Zimbabwe 4-2.
PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) — Togo coach Claude le Roy is not sure if veteran goalkeeper Kossi Agassa will play in a crucial game at the African Cup of Nations after his house in Lome was vandalized by supporters who blamed him for a loss.
Agassa was "emotionally affected" by the news and will be allowed to skip Togo's final group match against Congo in Gabon on Tuesday if he wishes, Le Roy said. Togo's hopes of qualifying for the quarterfinals rest on the game.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Gabon is gone at the African Cup of Nations, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's team becoming the first host since Tunisia in 1994 to be eliminated in the group stages.
Four teams have now qualified for the quarters: Senegal, Ghana, and Burkina Faso and Cameroon from Gabon's group.
Here's a look at how the groups at the African Cup now stand in the race for a place in the quarterfinals.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — The width of a goalpost denied host Gabon a place in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations on Sunday, with the desperate home team's fate sealed by a 0-0 draw with Cameroon and an agonizing miss in the dying seconds.
The draw with Cameroon, combined with Burkina Faso's 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in the final round of Group A games, saw Cameroon and Burkina Faso go through to the quarterfinals and Gabon slide out.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Hackers said they took out the website of French oil company Total on Sunday over its sponsorship of the ongoing African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in the central African country of Gabon.
The hackers said they targeted Total because of its backing of the African Cup in Gabon after President Ali Bongo Ondimba retained power in disputed and violent elections last year.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — In a curious twist even for this occasionally erratic soccer tournament, the African Cup of Nations was targeted by hackers on Saturday, with a group claiming to be Russian saying they had "taken down" the tournament's official website in a protest against what they called host country Gabon's dictatorial president.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — A group of hackers claiming to be based in Russia said Saturday they had shut down the website of the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in a protest at organizers holding it in the "dictatorship" of Gabon, where President Ali Bongo Ondimba retained power in disputed and violent elections last year.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Senegal's blistering first 14 minutes against Zimbabwe saw it race into the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations on Thursday. Algeria's woeful 16 second-half minutes against Tunisia saw it sink to the brink of elimination.
Nearly halfway through the group stage, Senegal produced the most compelling argument so far for the status of title favorite when Sadio Mane and Henri Saivet scored in an overpowering start against Zimbabwe in the eastern city of Franceville.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Senegal was Africa's top-ranked team on paper coming into the African Cup of Nations. It's No. 1 on the field, too, after overpowering Zimbabwe to be first into the quarterfinals.
Can defending champion Ivory Coast, underwhelming in its first test, respond on Friday? Some things to know as we approach the halfway stage of the group games at the African Cup:
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Title contender Algeria self-destructed at the African Cup of Nations, giving away an own goal and paying for some even worse defending in losing to North African rival Tunisia 2-1 on Thursday.
Ramy Bensebaini gave away the own goal by deflecting Youssef Msakni's cross into his own net in the 49th minute in Franceville.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — If Gabon's leaders were looking for the African Cup of Nations to provide a joyous distraction for a country fractured by violent elections six months ago, it's not working out that way. And if Cameroon was looking for an easy time against the tournament debutants from Guinea-Bissau, that didn't happen either.
OYEM, Gabon (AP) — Ivory Coast's Europe-based stars stumbled in the heat of northern Gabon in their African Cup of Nations opener, with the defending champion held by Togo to 0-0 on Monday in another twist to start the tournament.
Ivory Coast's title-winning coach fared worse as Congo beat Herve Renard's Morocco 1-0 in the day's second game.
Congo, a team that was on strike and refusing to train two days ago, finished with 10 men on the field and on top of Group D.
OYEM, Gabon (AP) — Oyem passed its first test at the African Cup of Nations even if defending champion Ivory Coast didn't, with one of Gabon's two new stadiums holding up on its opening day of games. Port-Gentil's new venue will be under scrutiny on Tuesday, and so will Egypt and Ghana after Ivory Coast became the latest title contender to underwhelm on its first outing.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — The African Cup of Nations in Gabon will temporarily leave behind the beaches and palm trees of the capital Libreville and head deep into the jungle to Franceville in the far west for the next games on Sunday when two title contenders, Algeria and Senegal, open their campaigns.
Here are some things to know with the African Cup underway:
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (AP) — Congo's sports minister led a delegation of 100 officials to the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Gabon on Saturday to resolve a player strike two days ahead of the team's first game.
Sports minister Willy Bakonga was called into action after Congo's squad, which includes England-based players Youssouf Mulumbu and Dieudonne Mbokani, boycotted a training session on Friday in a dispute over unpaid bonuses.