All You Need to Know About 2021 Africa Cup of Nations

Sat 08 January 2022 | 17:30

In this article of SportMob, we will share all the information you need to know about the upcoming 2021 African Cup of Nations.

There are very few tournaments that have experienced such torment as this edition of the African Cup of Nations, which has been moved twice, hosted by Cameroon between January and February 2022, even though its name is still 2021, and which until a few days ago risked being postponed again because of the pandemic.

However, it is a competition that players, national teams and fans hold dear, and it represents a kind of the last bastion of the football of the past that resists the fury of the new calendars that overturn everything. This time, the African Cup of Nations is going to be played in January, snatching away the best African players from the European teams that have them in their roster, risking to influence leagues and cups in a season that is already in the balance for Covid.

The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations, to be held this winter between 9 January and 6 February 2022, promises to be an exciting event, featuring the best of African football in the spotlight. The host country Cameroon will of course face the reigning champions Algeria, but also the historic national teams of Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt in their journey to win the competition.

History of the African Cup of Nations

The first African Cup of Nations was played in 1957 by just three national teams and was won by Egypt. Afterwards, this event became more popular and in 1962 there were 9 teams taking part. The winner in 1962 was Ethiopia who overcame Egypt in extra time. Between 1962 and 1980, the African Cup of Nations experienced great growth.

The organisational logistics left a lot to be desired, but the participation of the national teams increased continuously. It was the years of the victories of Ghana, Tunisia, Congo and Nigeria. For the next 10 years, until 1990, two teams were dominating the African Cup of Nations: Nigeria and the great surprise of Cameroon. The latter team was the surprise in the World Cup for national teams.

From 1990 the number of teams increased to 12. Teams were then divided into four groups of three teams. South Africa took part in the tournament in 1996 and won the Cup on the first attempt. Following this, the number of teams increased to 16.

Egypt was later the most successful team in this competition. As the demand for the African national teams to participate in this tournament was very high, the organisers created a qualification phase for the Cup. There were 52 teams and they were divided into 13 groups of 4 teams.

Throughout these years, the African Cup of Nations has been subject to logistical and organisational shifts as some of the participating countries have had and still have social and economic problems. The most recent example is the change of host country for the 2017 edition of the

Africa Cup of Nations

. The event was played in Gabon, replacing Libya, which was gripped by a major civil war.

The timing of this event has often changed over time, specifically due to aspects outside the game of football. In 2019 the African Cup of Nations was to be hosted by


, however, Egypt was replaced and hosted the competition and thus, in 2021 Cameroon replaced Ivory Coast.

African Cup of Nations Qualifiers - the road to the Africa Cup of Nations

Before a total of 24 different national teams take part in the Africa Cup of Nations, a qualifying round is played. This is similar to the qualifying process you know from a European Championship or World Cup. The Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers for the tournament in Cameroon were actually scheduled to start on 9 October 2019 and end on 9 September 2020.

But since the Africa Cup of Nations has been moved to 2022, the qualifying period was also moved. Actually, the qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations ended in March 2021. Altogether, 52 different nations took part in the Africa Cup qualifiers, which were divided into 5 different draw pots. The division into pots 1 to 5 was made on the basis of the current FIFA ranking.

However, before starting the qualifying groups, the 8 teams with the lowest ranking played against each other in knockout matches. The 4 winning teams then completed the field of participants for the actual qualification.

Then the teams were split into groups A to L. In each group, there were 4 teams, of which the best two national teams at the end of the qualifiers won the coveted ticket for the

2021 Africa Cup of Nations


The Format and Groups of the 2021 African Cup of Nations

The competition will be kicked off by Cameroon-Burkina Faso on 9 January at 5 pm at the 'Paul Biya' stadium, which has a capacity of 65,000 spectators in the heart of the capital Yaoundé. The final will take place there at 20:00 on Sunday 6 February.

A total of 24 qualified teams are divided into six groups of four. The top two from each group and the four best thirds go into the round of 16, a formula that has upset many, who believe the group stage is a prologue with a little appeal because two thirds will go on anyway.

From the round of 16 onwards, the matches will be played directly in a format that we are used to seeing at the World Cup and the European Championships. So, we can expect some very interesting and exciting matches in the list of

African Cup of Nations fixtures 2021.

Group A - Cameroon - Burkina Faso - Cape Verde - Ethiopia

The Group A of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (2021) includes the host country with Toni Conceiçao's Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions, who have previously won the trophy five times, with the last time being in the 2017 edition, will be playing against Burkina Faso,

Cape Verde

and Ethiopia, the three teams largely within their reach.

Without a doubt pushed by the home crowd and their ambition to perform better than in 2019 (which they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Nigeria), Stephane Bahoken and his teammates are expected to dominate this first group of the competition.

Group B: Senegal - Guinea - Malawi - Zimbabwe

At Group B, it is of course Senegal that everyone is waiting for at this 2022 (2021) Africa Cup of Nations. Having been unhappy finalists in the last edition played in Egypt, Aliou Cissé's team seems to be the most talented in the competition, and will at last try to find success at the continental level.

As the Lions have never won a title in their history, they will first have to overcome a tough group made up of Guinea, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Given their high-level experience but also their incredible talent (Mendy, Koulibaly, Gueye, Kouyate, Mané, Sarr, Diatta...), the Senegalese are heavy favourites in this group. It would surprise us not to see them finish at the top of the group.

Group C: Morocco - Ghana - Gabon - Comoros

Group C in this 33rd Africa Cup of Nations is certainly one of the most challenging. Having qualified for the first time in their history,


will face Achraf Hakimi's Morocco, the Ghana of Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Gabon.

This is a huge challenge that should not allow Amir Abdou's men to progress to the next stage of the competition, however, nothing is impossible in football.


, under an experienced coach (Vahid Halilhodzic) and impressive talents (Bounou, Hakimi, Saïss, En-Nesyri, Munir...) may well be the big favourite for first place. In any case, the Lions of the Atlas look in good shape.

Group D: Nigeria - Egypt - Guinea Bissau - Sudan

Group D of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (2021) includes two great teams,


and Mohamed Salah's Egypt. Having been champions three and seven times respectively, the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs are supposed to fight until the last round for the top spot in the group. With the likes of Nanu, Marcelo Djalo, Pele and Mama Baldé, Guinea Bissau also appears to have the assets to fight for qualification to the round of 16.

The Sudanese team of Hubert Velud, who captured the title in 1970 but are still far from being up to the task of this competition, will have to sweat blood if they are to have any chance of getting through. Four national teams, Nigeria, Egypt, Guinea Bissau and Sudan, are far from being at the same level. The difference in quality will be apparent from the first matches in this fourth group.

Group E: Algeria - Ivory Coast - Equatorial Guinea - Sierra Leone

Just as in the previous group, Group E brings together two giants of African football:


, the defending African champions, and Ivory Coast, winners in 2015. With Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone, the Desert Foxes and the Elephants will fight for qualification for the remainder of the tournament, which both national teams are well within reach of. The Ivory Coast, with players such as Pépé, Zaha, Haller, Kessié or Bailly and Aurier, have the potential to cause problems for an Algeria that is perhaps less motivated than in recent editions.

In fact, Belmadi's men, who won the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, are expected to have some less motivation, especially since some of their players appear to be nowhere near their best level (Slimani, Feghouli, Ounas, Bensebaini, Benlamri, M'Bolhi...). The remaining two teams will probably aim at the best third place. For this group, it should be kept in mind that

Equatorial Guinea

had reached the semi-finals of the 2015 edition.

Group F | Tunisia - Mali - Mauritania - Gambia

The last group of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (2021) is made up of


, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia. While the latter two national teams may have difficulty scoring points in this group stage (Mauritania is 23rd out of 53 African countries in the FIFA ranking, Gambia only 44th), both the Tunisians and the Malians will have the right motivation to fight for the first place in the group.

Thanks to players such as Haïdara, Bissouma, Djenepo, Samassékou or El Bilal Touré, Mali may well be the outsider of this African Cup of Nations. Whatever the case, this is a team to watch and which has nothing to envy Tunisia. The Eagles of Carthage, who won the title in 2004, are not among the best teams on the continent anymore. It will be up to them to prove otherwise in Cameroon.

2022 Africa Cup of Nations stadiums

Cameroon has done several works and constructions so that 6 stadiums are operational for the 6 groups of the 2022 African Cup of Nations. These six stadiums are located in five cities of the country. In fact, these 6 stadiums are situated in Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua, Limbé and Yaounde (2 stadiums). One more stadium in Douala was to have been included in this list, but the organisers decided otherwise.

All the games have been more or less equally divided among the 6 stadiums of the African Cup of Nations 2022. Each stadium will host a minimum of five group matches and one round of 16 match. For the remainder of the competition, the stadiums with a larger capacity have been given priority in order to welcome the largest possible number of spectators. This is particularly the case for the Olembe Stadium, which will be the playing field for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations final.

The upcoming African Cup of Nations will be played in five major cities in Cameroon. Among them, four are located mainly in the centre and west of the country. These include Bafoussam, Douala, Limbe and Yaoundé.

The last city, Garoua, is located in the extreme north of Cameroon. Those five cities were not chosen at random as they are highly touristic cities. Passion for the most popular sport in the world is also very much present. Furthermore, four stadiums have been built completely while the other two stadiums have been renovated.


The largest stadiums for the 2021 African Cup of Nations

The capacities of the stadiums have always differed for each tournament. Some stadiums are always bigger than others. The African Cup of Nations is no exception to this tradition as for this 2022 edition, the Olembe stadium is the largest with a capacity of 60,000 spectators. In fact, it is this stadium that has been selected to host the opening match of the 2022 African Cup of Nations as well as the final of the tournament.

The second major stadium of the competition is located in Douala. The Japoma Stadium can hold up to 50,000 spectators. It will notably be the scene of one of the semi-finals of CAN 2022. Besides that, this stadium will also host two quarter-finals of the 2022 African Cup of Nations and a round of 16 match.

The third-largest stadium is the second-largest stadium in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital. The Stade Ahmadou-Ahidjo has a capacity of up to 40,000 people in its stands.

The smallest stadiums of the 2021 CAN

The three remaining stadiums all have a capacity of fewer than 30,000 seats and will mainly host group matches and at least one round of 16 match each. Two of the stadiums have the lowest capacity. The Limbe and Bafoussam stadiums can hold up to 20,000 people each.

The Roumdé Adjia Stadium can seat up to 25,000 people. It is located in Garoua, the northernmost city of the country for this competition.

Among the six stadiums, four were built from scratch, while the last two were enlarged through renovations. The Olembé Stadium, the Japoma Stadium, the Bafoussam Sports Stadium and the Limbe Stadium are all new venues. Moreover, one stadium is still under construction and is expected to be completed for the start of the competition.

Favourites for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations

A number of nations are expected to be among the favourites for this year's Africa Cup of Nations. These include Algeria, which will be seeking to repeat its performance of 2019 and claim a third title. A result that would be synonymous with a feat since no selection since Egypt, crowned between 2006 and 2010, has been able to retain its title since.

Now let's talk about Mohamed Salah's Pharaohs. The country with the most titles in the competition (7) has the ambition to rebound, after being knocked out in the last 16 of the previous edition. The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Cameroon are also expected to be a formidable force and add another entry for themselves in the Africa Cup of Nations winners list.

As for Senegal, they have never known the ultimate happiness but they were close to it three years ago when Algeria took the prize in the final. The Lions of Teranga, led by the great Sadio Mané, are one of the strongest teams on the continent and appear set to win the first title at the tournament, so they have every chance of adding themselves to the Africa Cup of Nations winners list.

Many Outsiders for the Title

There is no doubt that the competition will be tough. The Moroccan team, whose best result in the last fifteen years is a quarter-final (2017), intends to be among the troublemakers. Having had a great year in 2021, highlighted by a successful qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup, Achraf Hakimi's Atlas Lions will be looking to make their case.

It is also true of their Tunisian neighbours, the side with the most points (16/18) in the qualifying phase. The Carthage Eagles played in their first semi-final since 2004 when they won their only title in the competition. They will compete with their leader Wahbi Khazri, who is widely known in France.

The Ivory Coast, winners in 2015, are not quite as dominant as they were a few years ago but they may also be one of the key players in this Africa Cup of Nations. They have a quality squad, including Sebastien Haller, who enjoyed an exceptional first half of the season with Ajax, and a number of players who are already well established in Europe, including Serge Aurier (Villarreal), Eric Bailly (Man United) and Maxwel Cornet (Burnley).

Last but not least, Nigeria will be without Gernot Rohr, who was sacked a month before the start of the African Cup of Nations, and their strongman Victor Osimhen, who will not be available. However, this does not mean we should forget about the Super Eagles who have the chance to appear again on the

Africa Cup of Nations winners list


16 African and 8 European Coaches to Compete

The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations will shortly open its doors in Cameroon. Twenty-four teams are taking part, requiring 24 different coaches. While we were used to seeing many foreigners in the ranks of these coaches, this year's edition is quite special. There is a strong representation of African coaches.

More and more African nations are starting to trust their own coaches to lead their national football teams. This comes as no surprise. The best example was the 2019 African Cup of Nations final in


where both teams were coached by local technicians. The Algerian team, lifted the trophy under Algerian coach Djamel Belmadi, defeating Senegalese coach Aliou Cissé and his Lions of Teranga of



Like these two coaches, many other countries are evolving according to the same logic. In fact, there are 16 African coaches involved in the 2021 African Cup of Nations. What is most striking is that each of them is coaching the team from which they originate.

Most recently, Nigeria decided to part company with Franco-German Gernot Rohr and hired former Nigerian international Augustine Eguavoen. Just a few days earlier, Kaba Diawara was appointed as the new head coach of Guinea's Syli National, after Didier Six's departure.

The African continent is currently 67% represented in the coaching ranks with 16 representatives. All other 8 coaches who will be in the game are European, representing 33% of the total number. This means that there are no Americans, Asians or Oceanians.

Africa Cup of Nations 2021: What to Expect

The tournament is always one of the most open competitions in international football. In the last five editions, there have been five different winners. In the following, we take a look at what we can expect from the biggest football competition in Africa.

Comoros and Gambia are in for the first time

Besides the performances of the top teams, the Africa Cup of Nations also offers a glimpse of the - most dazzling - underdogs. Along with Gambia (2.4 million inhabitants), the island group of Comoros (870,000 inhabitants) has also qualified for the Cup for the first time. Comoros is managed by 49-year-old French-born Amir Abdou, which took over the team in 2014 and put it together in a completely new way.

Apart from coaching the Mauritanian club team Nouadhibou FC, Abdou looked around Europe for players with Comorian roots and indeed found what he was looking for - albeit only in France's second and third leagues. However, the team showed such cohesion and fighting spirit that they managed to beat the likes of Kenya and Togo in the qualifying matches for the competition.

Algeria Aiming to Defend the Title

Coming into the competition as the reigning champions, the Algerians are aiming high to defend their title in the 2021 African Cup of Nations. With the likes of Riyad Mahrez and other talented footballers playing in the top European clubs, football experts believe that the team has a good chance of doing that and clinching their back to back AFCON title.

Nigeria - Domestic Sporting Problems

Nigeria's sporting problems are mainly of their own making. For the last five years, the German-Frenchman Gernot Rohr was hired to build up a new national team - only to be dismissed by the 68-year-old just four weeks before the most important African sporting event.

The Nigerian squad that Rohr had planned was once again shaken up under the new interim coach Augustine Eguavoen, however, not without some losses. Because his call-up was not registered in time with the African Football Confederation CAF and his club

FC Watford

, the subsequently nominated attacker Emmanuel Dennis is not allowed to take part. Moreover, star striker Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli - who Rohr has always been particularly keen to endorse - abruptly withdrew from the tournament due to "mental problems".

Favourites for Top Scorer Award

With each passing season, Mohamed Salah is continuing to impress the Premier League with his talent. As the captain of his national team, Salah's ability to play for others and his sharp eye for goal has made him a natural favourite for the competition. In the same way, Sadio Mané has also put in a series of excellent performances together with his Egyptian team-mate. He is the technical leader of his team and is a natural favourite to win the award.

Riyad Mahrez is a successful model in Algeria. He is capable of scoring at the club level and has also demonstrated his skills at the international level in the past. Therefore, he is also one of the big favourites of finishing as a top scorer in the competition.

Wahbi Khazri has scored more than 20 goals for his club, which makes him one of the expected scorers for Tunisia. The other player, Vincent Aboubakar, is a familiar face in the competition. He is always at the rendezvous with the Indomitable Lions, and this year should be no different, especially at home!

Currently joint top scorer in the


, and top scorer in the Champions League since the start of the season, Sebastien Haller might be able to claim the title of top scorer for the African Cup of Nations, if he maintains his momentum.

The 27-year-old Paul Onuachu finished as Africa's top scorer in the 2020/21 season. This recognition rationally makes him one of the potential surprises of the tournament. Having scored 9 goals in 9 games since the start of his season, he currently is the second-highest scorer in the Jupiter Pro League.

A Competition Disliked by the European Clubs

While the African Cup of Nations will begin on 9 January, the players who have been called up must reach the camps of their respective national teams as early as 27 December, which is two weeks before the start of the competition, as required by FIFA.

Furthermore, the players who make it through to the finals (the African Cup of Nations also includes the third and fourth place finals) will be playing on 6 February and will not be able to return to train with the team of their European club until 17 February because of the 10-day quarantine for those returning from Cameroon.

This is 52 days after his departure for Africa and in the week in which the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 and the Europa League round of 16 is also played on 15, 16 and 17 February. It is expected that a total of around 90 European club players involved in the finals will miss around two months of the season.

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source: SportMob

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