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For the first time since 1998, Chelsea will be unaffected by the Africa Cup of Nations

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From heroes to zeros.
From heroes to zeros.
Ian Walton/Getty Images

A lot can happen in just a few short years, including the emergence of strange conditions that will see neither Nigeria nor Egypt -- i.e. the champions of Africa in four of the last five editions -- contest the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.  Unexpected, to say the least.

We're also entering uncharted waters here as far as Chelsea are concerned.  Or at least waters that haven't been charted since about 1998, as for the first time in recent memory, Chelsea will be completely unaffected by the continental tournament and it's ever-disruptive mid-winter schedule.  A couple of our loanees will be there (Christian Atsu, currently at Everton, for Ghana and Bertrand Traoré, currently at Vitesse, for Burkina Faso), but the first-team proper, barring any permanent or temporary transfers in the meantime, will retain our full complement of players.

Incidentally, a couple times on Wednesday, both Nigeria and Egypt where within touching distance of making the tournament, but despite John Obi Mikel's and Mohamed Salah's best efforts, both fell short.  Nigeria couldn't find a third goal to complete the comeback against South Africa, while Egypt couldn't find a second goal before giving up the lead in the second half against Tunisia.  So instead, the last-in honors as the best third-place team went to Congo, who are also entering newly rediscovered country with their first appearance since the year 2000.

Here's Chelsea participatory record over the last 15 years in Africa's crowning jewel of international football:

2000:  Nigeria (Celestine Babayaro)
2002:  Nigeria (Babayaro)
2004:  Nigeria (Babayaro),  Cameroon (Geremi)
2006:  Nigeria (John Obi Mikel), Ivory Coast (Didier Drogba)
2008:  Nigeria (Mikel), Ivory Coast (Drogba, Salomon Kalou), Ghana (Michael Essien)
2010:  Nigeria (Mikel), Ivory Coast (Drogba, Kalou), Ghana (Essien)
2012:  Ivory Coast (Drogba, Kalou)
2013:  Nigeria (Mikel, Victor Moses)

Good luck to the two loanees.  We'll be watching from afar, for once!