Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are preparing to welcome the 14 other countries set to contest the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. The two African neighbours may not exactly be stand-out countries on the spectacular continent in terms of financial stability, but both carry a rich history and attract global interest for various reasons. So take a moment to broaden your horizons and read our comprehensive guides for each of the 16 participating nations.
CLICK THE NAME OF EACH COMPETING NATION TO READ FULL PREVIEWS.
Equatorial Guinea: As a footballing nation Equatorial Guinea have barely cast even a shadow on the global stage, but considering their first match as a competitive team took place just over 36 years ago, the Central African minnows have indeed come quite far.
Libya: Libya is situated in North Africa and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Sudan to the southeast, Egypt to the east, Chad and Niger to the south, as well as Algeria and Tunisia to the west. The Mediterranean Knights' qualification for the 2012 African Cup of Nations was no small feat given the nation's recent civil war
Senegal: One of the most enduring memories of the 2002 World Cup was provided by Senegal when they shocked the football world by beating World and European champions France in the tournament opener. The Lions of Teranga, in their first-ever World Cup appearance, would go on to produce a string of accomplished performances.
Zambia: If Zambia's footballing credentials were rated solely on their performances on the global stage, the landlocked country would struggle to get as much as an honourable mention. Just last year the Southern Africans plumbed new depths, registering their lowest ever FIFA ranking of 101.
Ivory Coast: Africa's top-ranked side enter the event as strong favourites, boasting global icons in Yaya Toure and Chelsea hitman Didier Drogba. The Elephants have, however, struggled under the burden of heavy expectation, stumbling in the first round of the 2010 World Cup, and suffering a quarter-final exit in the previous Africa Cup of Nations.
Sudan: Once a potentially promising outfit, Sudan's progress on the international stage has been severely hampered by an unstable socio-economic climate and civil unrest. For more than five decades the country has been plagued by ethnic, religious and economic strife.
Burkina Faso: Burkina Faso's national football team were known as Upper Volta until 1984. They are nicknamed The Stallions and their home ground is the Stade du 4-Août. The country is located in West Africa and share a border with Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Angola: Since making their international debut against Cuba in 1997, the highlight of Angolan football was undoubtedly the country's qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Qualification was the culmination of steady progress which had seen the Palancas Negras record their highest ever FIFA ranking of 45 in 2002.
Gabon: Gabon earned automatic entry to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations as co-hosts of the tournament alongside Equatorial Guinea. The Gabon national football team is known as The Panthers and made its debut against Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) in 1960 at the L'Amitié tournament for French-speaking countries.
Niger: Niger will make their Africa Cup of Nations finals debut after securing their passage with more than a hint of farcical controversy at South Africa's expense. Mena booked their spot after finishing level with South Africa and Sierra Leone on nine points in their qualifying group.
Morocco: As winners of the 1976 Africa Cup on Nations, Morocco have failed to replicate that feat in the decades that have followed. However, they have been involved in 13 editions of the competition, finishing in third place in 1908 and runners up in the 2004 showpiece.
Tunisia: Tunisia have proved themselves one of Africa's most respected footballing nations since making their international debut in June 1957. The Carthage Eagles acquired the distinction of being the first African country to win a World Cup match when they beat Mexico 3-1 in the 1978 installment in Argentina.
Ghana: Ghana head into the 2012 edition of the African Cup of Nations as one of the favourites to lift the trophy come the 12th of February in Libreville, Gabon. The Black Stars became only the third African team in history to reach the World Cup quarter-finals during the 2010 tournament in South Africa
Botswana: This will be Botswana's first participation in the AFCON after they failed to qualify from 1994 through to 2010. The Zebras were the surprise package of their qualification group, finishing top of the pile with Tunisia clinching the other available spot.
Mali: Mali, officially known as Republic of Mali, is situated in West Africa and borders Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania. The country has a population of around 14.5 million and the capital is Bamako.
Guinea: Guinea made their competitive debut on the international stage at the West African Games in Nigeria on 2 October 1960. Although they lost that particular encounter 4-0 to the hosts, it was the start of steady progress.