FOOTBALL

Five major footballing events to get excited about in 2017

Despite no World Cup or European Championship on the event calendar there are plenty of major football competitions to look forward to in the new year.

Five major footballing events to get excited about in 2017

Despite there being no World Cup, Copa America or European Championships for global football fans to get excited about next year, there are still plenty of major football to keep us all engaged as the year progresses. Here's five competitions that we're especially looking forward to.

1. 2017 African Cup of Nations

Where and when: 

The tournament takes place in Gabon from January 14 and concludes with the final match on February 5.

Mascot for Gabon CAN 2017

The 31st edition of the biennial tournament was scheduled to take place in Libya but was switched to Gabon after unsuitability in the North African nation.

The tournament will be staged in four cities, the capital Libreville, Franceville, Oyerm and Port Gentil. Holders Ivory Coast go into the tournament as favourite with Senegal, Cameroon and host nation Gabon expected to challenge for the title. The winners of the February 5 final will also play in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia next summer.

Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

PSG's Serge Aurer (Ivory Coast), Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) and Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) are just a few of the bug name stars who will feature at the tournament.

2. 2017 Champions League final      

Where and when:

The final of this year's competition will be staged at Cardiff National stadium on June 3

Much has been written on Real Madrid's Gareth Bale making a spiritual return to his native Cardiff (Wales) for the final. In order for this to materialise Zidane's men firstly need to see off Serie A outfit Napoli who they face in the last 16 of the competition. The Italian side visit Madrid in February with the return leg to be staged at a hostile San Paolo stadium in the Southern Italian city. 

Barcelona are still favourites with the bookmakers despite the Catalan side getting one of the toughest rivals in Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain and Carlo Ancelotti's Bayern Munich also ranked highly as a candidate for the Bundesliga side to secure what would be their sixth European Cup.

BARCELONA

3. UEFA U-21 European Chamnpionship

Where and when:

The finals of the Euro 2017 U-21 tournament will take place in six venues in Poland from June 16-30 (2017) 

12 nations will participate in the always interesting Under 21 tournament which offers a spotlight for the best in emerging talent across the continent with defending champions Sweden the side to beat as the Scandinavian side start as clear favourites to retain their crown.

Spain took their place in the finals after overcoming Austria in a two leg play-off and coach Albert Celades has a rich seam of quality to call upon for the tournament with the likes of Arsenal's Hector Bellerin, Barça's Denis Suarez and Valencia striker Munir.

Bellerin

4: FIFA Confederations Cup 

Where and when:

The 10th edition of the FIFA organised tournament will take place in Russia from June 17-July 2.

Introducing the "Krasava", official match-ball of the 2017 Confed Cup

The tournament traditionally is a prelude to the World Cup and features respective confederation winners along with hosts Russia. Moscow, Kazan, St. Petersburg and Sochi are the four host cities and the action gets underway in the Krestovsky Stadium (St. Petersburg) as Russia face Oceania representative New Zealand. The final competitor will hail from the African federation and will be known after the final of the 2017 African Nations Cup in Gabon.

5: CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017

Where and when:

The 14th edition of the Gold Cup gets underway on July 7th in Red Bull Arena (NJ) and runs through to 26th. All games will be played in the United States.

New USA head coach Bruce Arena

The competition pulls together the best from North, Central American and Caribbean with just USA, Mexico and Canada as the qualified nations to date.