2021 Africa Cup of Nations Top Teams

Wed 12 January 2022 | 10:00

In this article, we will introduce the best teams competing in the 2021 African Cup of Nations, who have every chance of winning the title this year.

Europe has EURO, South America has Copa América. However, when it comes to Africa, football fans have the

Africa Cup of Nations

to look forward to every two years. This year and the 33rd edition, which has been postponed to 2022 due to last year's covid pandemic, has kicked off on 9th January and are being played in Cameroon.

As with many of the events of the past two years, the Africa Cup of Nations has been forced to give way to the pandemic of the covid-19 disease. As a result, the football festival on the third-largest continent in terms of the area did not take place until early 2022. The attractiveness of the tournament, however, was never affected by this change. In this article, we want to take a look at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top teams.

In total, 24 African national teams are taking part and regarding the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations location, you might already know that the tournament is being played in 6 stadiums located in Cameroon. The largest, Olembe Stadium, can accommodate up to 60,000 spectators and is located in the capital Yaoundé. Therefore, it is clear that this is where the final will be held at the beginning of February.

2021 African Cup of Nations Best Teams

While this year there is a huge competition between the top African teams to win the trophy, many football pundits believe that among them, Algeria, Senegal and the Egyptian national team has the biggest chance of clinching the 2021 African Cup of Nations title. Before getting down to the list of 2021 African Cup of Nations top teams, let’s first take a look at this tournament.

History of the African Cup of Nations - CAN 2022

It was 64 years ago that the first African Cup of Nations was played in Sudan in 1957. Today, it is the most important national football competition for African footballers. There were only three countries that participated in the original competition: Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. Although South Africa was also supposed to participate, it had to drop out due to apartheid policies.

The first winner of the Africa Cup of Nations was Egypt. They repeated the feat six times since and now boast the most successful national team in the competition's history. Egypt has also hosted the competition five times, while four tournaments have been held in



Later on, the number of Africa Cup of Nations teams increased to 16 (first time in 1998) and 24 (first time in 2017), respectively. The format is still used today. In the beginning, the Africa Cup of Nations was played every two years. But in 2013 it was moved to odd years to ensure it did not conflict with the World Cup.

Regulations and structure of the African Cup of Nations

The African Cup of Nations is a football event for African national teams belonging to the Confederation of the African Continent. Over the years, the number of teams entered in the competition has increased, with the addition of a knockout stage, from which the 24 teams that make it to the group stage emerge.

There are six groups of four national teams each. The first two national teams in each group will advance to the round of 16, followed by the four best third-placed teams. The order of criteria to determine which team will advance to the round of 16 if one or more teams are tied on points is as follows:

  • Direct matches: highest number of points

  • Direct match: best goal difference

  • Direct match: highest number of goals scored

  • Group: best goal difference

  • Group: highest number of goals scored

  • Drawing by the CAF Committee

National teams from the same group cannot play against each other in the round of 16. Starting from the knockout stage to the final, in the event of a draw, the game will go to extra time and then to penalty shoot-outs (if the score remains tied, of course). As for the 3-4 place final, there will be no extra time and it will go directly to penalty kicks.

Past winners of the African Cup of Nations

The most successful country in the Africa Cup of Nations is Egypt. The title has been won seven times by the Pharaohs, and they have competed in nine finals. The second most accomplished country is Cameroon with five titles. The Indomitable Lions have also won two second places. It is worth mentioning Ghana, one of the most successful countries in the African Cup of Nations. While the Black Stars hold four winners' trophies, they have participated in the finals nine times.

Who are the star players of the 2022 African Cup of Nations?

The 2022 Africa Cup of Nations will have many of the world's best football players competing in Cameroon. The Ajax number one Andre Onana will play in goal, with Napoli's Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa in the midfield of the Cameroon team. Group A rivals Burkina Faso will take the field under Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore.

The Senegalese have several European stars in Group B. They include Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye and


striker Sadio Mane. Other Liverpool players in the group include Naby Keita, a rival from Guinea.

The top seed in Group C,


, is led by defender Achraf Hakimi from PSG. Ghana has the Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan in their team. Meanwhile,


is led by exiled Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Egyptian team in Group D is undoubtedly the most talented in the tournament. Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is hoping to lead Egypt to their eighth CAN title. The team will face a strong Nigerian side, with Wilfried Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho of

Leicester City


The defensive champions of Group E are Algeria. They have

Manchester City

striker Riyad Maharez, Lyon striker Islam Slimani and AC Milan midfielder Ismael Benacer to call on. Also available is Galatasaray winger Sofiane Fenghouli. The Algerians face a tough challenge to win the group against a strong Ivory Coast team featuring Manchester United's Eric Bailly, Milan's Franck Kessie, Burnley's Maxwel Cornet, Ajax's Sebastien Haller, Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha and Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe.

The Tunisian leader in Group E is Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri. He will take on RB Leipzig's Malian player Amadou Haidara. Now that we know much more about this Africa Cup of Nations 2021, it is time to take a look at some of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations top teams, stay tuned.

Cameroon National Team

Another very important tournament in which the team is "forced" to play a leading role. Over the years they have been one of the "big" teams in Africa, yet, in the last twenty years, they have just one trophy in their collection (2017). They will undoubtedly be looking forward to adding themselves to the list of African Cup of Nations winners.

Notably, they were knocked out of the final in 2012 and 2013. They were eliminated twice in the round of 16 in their three most recent appearances in the African Cup of Nations, and in 2017 they beat Egypt 2-1 in the final. Currently, they are the second team with the most trophies to their name (5), behind only the Pharaohs who have seven.

Cameroon finished first in their group with 11 points (3 games won) just ahead of Cape Verde in the qualification round for the competition. They finished 4th in the last edition of the African Nations Championship at the beginning of the year, but their results have not been very good. Recent results have not always been impressive and despite a recent success against Malawi in the qualifiers for the next World Cup, Cameroon is not doing well. However, they can boast of having some great players in their squad.

The experience and quality of Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting will definitely not be too much to ask for, while the likes of Karl Toko-Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar will provide solid attacking solutions. Having won the competition five times, the Indomitable Lions will logically be awaited at the turning point.

Cameroon CAN 2022 squad

The Cameroonian team is coached by Toni Conceiçao, the former FC Porto player, with an average age of 26 years. The squad includes both experienced players such as Choupo-Moting and Aboubakar Toko Ekambi and youngsters such as Neyou, Hongla, Moukoudi and Onana. This is a varied and multi-talented squad that could transcend itself at home.

The coach: Toni Conceiçao, aims for consistency.

The Portuguese tactician was appointed to lead the


national team in September 2019 following the failure of his predecessor at the African Cup of Nations, and his contract has been extended by the federation. Despite the health crisis, the coach has achieved certain stability with 11 wins, 4 draws and 4 defeats for a total of 19 official matches. Toni will have to teach his men the culture of winning in order to lead his attacking players towards the goal.

Cameroon's match schedule

Cameroon, the tournament hosts, kicked off the competition on 9 January against Burkina Faso (Group A) at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde with a 2-1 win. Thereafter, the Indomitable Lions will have to face Ethiopia and Cape Verde to hope to reach the round of 16. With three new stadiums built since 2014, the country is all set to host the competition. Although Toni's men have the benefit of playing the entire tournament at home, they will need to not give in to the pressure.

An affordable group at home

The draw for the African Cup of Nations took place in August. All six groups were revealed and Cameroon found themselves in a rather comfortable group, with Cape Verde, who had played twice in the qualifiers. The Indomitable Lions will have to show confidence at home in front of a football-loving public that expects to see their team win. The last time Cameroon hosted the Africa Cup of Nations was in 1972 when they finished third. Choupo-Moting and his team will be aiming to do better in 2022.

The star player: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

The 32-year-old Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is the star player of the Cameroonian national team. Having made 57 appearances, the Bayern Munich striker is someone who can make an impact in attacking situations. Having made numerous appearances for the German club, Choupo-Moting is always capable of scoring an important goal at any time. Although he has not scored for the national team since 23 March 2019, his recent good performances could help him regain confidence.

The player to watch: André Onana

Following a nine-month suspension, the Cameroonian goalkeeper returned to Conceicao's list during the November international break. This is good news for the Indomitable Lions who will be relying on the 25-year-old goalkeeper. The young goalkeeper trained at the Samuel Eto'o Academy and pursued his training at La Masia. Onana's future is already bright, but it is with Ajax that he has continued to shine since his arrival in the Netherlands.

Senegal National Team


were finalists at the last African Cup of Nations but failed to come up with a solution against Algeria. Now, two and a half years later, there can be no doubt that Aliou Cisse's men will be out for revenge on Cameroonian soil. In the last edition of the CAN, the Senegalese excelled in Egypt. After reaching the final, the Senegalese team was unable to win against Algeria.

The Lions of Teranga are the logical favourites for this year's tournament and ended up in first place in their group with 14 points, ahead of Guinea-Bissau, Congo and Eswatini in the qualifiers. They know that in this competition they will be under pressure. After losing the COSAFA Cup final on penalties to South Africa, the Senegalese are still going strong with a string of good results.

Senegal CAN 2022 Squad

Having been at the helm of Senegal since March 2015, Aliou Cisse has clearly found a way to develop his squad over the years. There is often youth mixed with seniority, while the club experience of some players contributes to a successful squad. Thanks to the team's strengths and the apparent stability of the team, Senegal are naturally one of the favourites for the competition.

The coach: Aliou Cissé, for efficiency

After the failure of the African Cup of Nations and the elimination of the Lions in the group stage, Aliou Cissé was named head of the Senegalese national team in March 2015. A strong man for Senegal in 2002, when they first appeared in the World Cup, Aliou Cisse implemented his system of play, which he has perfected over the past few years. Although they failed in the group stage at the last World Cup, Senegal proved to be more than convincing in their international matches.

Aliou Cissé's Lions of Teranga have found their recipe for success with 8 wins and 2 losses in their last 10 matches. However, there are still some difficulties, but with a squad like this, the Senegalese coach has to do much better to keep his faith.

Senegal's match schedule

As part of Group B, the Senegalese team will be the clear favourites of the group. Heirs to a group deemed "easy", the day after the opening match, the Senegalese faced Zimbabwe, winning a narrow 0-1. Thereafter, they will have to beat Guinea and Malawi if they are to reach the last 16.

A good year for a well-armed Senegal

Following their disappointing loss to Algeria in 2019 final, Senegal may be able to avenge their loss this year. The Senegalese team was already well-armed in 2019. By 2022, they should be even more so. The players have gained experience, some of them are more efficient and new faces have been brought in. Youth and experience should combine well.

The star player: Sadio Mané

The Liverpool striker Sadio Mané is the leading light of the Senegalese team. Having won 73 caps since 2012, the Senegalese international has a wealth of experience to offer. As a major player at Liverpool, he not only belongs to the best African players but also to the world. His status and quality helped Senegal reach the final of the last African Cup of Nations. He is fast, good at dribbling and scoring goals and is naturally one of the main pieces of the Senegalese attack.

The player to watch: Edouard Mendy

Edouard Mendy was selected by Aliou Cissé for the last edition of the African Cup of Nations, but after appearing three times for Senegal, he was injured. The time has passed since then and he has become an established player in the Chelsea net, winning the Champions League in his first season with the Blues. However, after he tested positive for Covid-19, he is going to miss the majority of the matches.

Egypt National Team

The most successful nation in the history of the CAN is


. Although they are usually among the favourites to win the competition, Egypt's epic campaign came to a swift end in 2019. After being knocked out in the round of 16, the Egyptians will be eager for revenge in January at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.

While struggling on the international stage, Egypt has reigned on the continental scene. Having won the CAN 7 times, Egypt is the most decorated team in the history of the competition. They have won three consecutive tournaments in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and are frequently considered to be the most feared team on the continent.

In 2017, they were unlucky to reach the last 16 on home soil in 2019. The Pharaohs are now back on track and have topped their qualifying group for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. They are clearly showing their desire to reign again and add themselves to the African Cup of Nations winners list.

Egypt CAN 2022 Squad

As 2017 runners-up, everything seemed to point to Egypt doing great things in 2019. All the stars seemed to be aligned for the Pharaohs. They were playing at home while qualifying for the Round of 16 without too much trouble. However, with the snap of a finger, South Africa suddenly put an end to Egypt's ambitions. The coach has since changed, and a few players have been brought in to hope to dream on the pitch in Cameroon.

The coach: Carlos Queiroz, a new start

After his recent arrival at the head of the Egyptian bench, it remains difficult to say whether the coach is capable of raising the level of the national team. Yet, for his first steps on the Pharaohs' bench, the head coach has shown good performances. After reaching the next round of qualifiers for the next World Cup, Egypt may also owe it to their new leader. The 68-year-old tactician will have to re-establish himself on the continental stage and hopefully, the few games he has played will have already allowed him to find his feet.

Egypt's match schedule

After qualifying for the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, Egypt did not fall into one of the easiest groups to tackle. They will face


to start their campaign, before meeting Guinea Bissau and then Sudan.

Revival after the fiasco?

On 11 January, Egypt will start their adventure in Cameroon against Nigeria. The first match will be much more than a test for the Egyptians. With new coach Carlos Queiroz now in place, the Egyptians are expected to show a new way of playing. The experience gained by the man during his time with the greats, not least Sir Alex Ferguson, will help to renew a successful squad. And whatever path the Egyptians take, they must do much better than they did at the last edition.

The star player: Mohamed Salah

He will be called upon to guide the Pharaohs to the top of Africa is superstar Mohamed Salah. Indeed, the Liverpool striker has 45 goals for the national flag in 74 appearances. Currently, one of the best players in the football world, if he keeps his strong club-level performances in the national team, Egypt will undoubtedly be there to win the competition.

Player to watch: Omar Marmoush

At just 22 years of age, Omar Marmoush can already represent the future of Egyptian football. After training with Wadi Degla FC, he switched to the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg in 2017. He played for the German club's reserve team and displayed his young talent. This January, the centre-forward returned to the German second division on loan until the end of the season. Having scored 7 goals, he showed that the hopes placed on him were far from utopian.

Algeria National Team

The Algerian team, winners of the last edition of the African Cup of Nations, are on cloud nine. With an unbeaten run of 32 matches, the Algerians are clear favourites for the competition. The 2019

Algerian national team

had little room for competition. With a solid and efficient squad, Djamel Belmadi's men won the second African Cup of Nations in their history. Although the Fennecs were absent from the last World Cup, they had an excellent World Cup in 2014.

Despite the fact that the Algerians were highly anticipated and obviously favourites, they did not have any trouble qualifying for this new edition of the CAN. They finished 14 points ahead of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana and were the logical winners.

Algeria CAN 2022 Squad

The Algerian squad is amongst the best in the competition. In both defence and attack, Belmadi's men are united and have qualities that can make a difference. In goal, Raïs M'Bohli is a reliable player and a source of confidence for his teammates. In attack, players like Mahrez and Islam Slimani are ready to change the course of a match. Moreover, the youth of Hicham Bouadoui should also allow some bursts of attacking play.

Djamel Belmadi has been using some very effective formations since he took over as Algeria coach. While the average age of the squad is around 28, this in no way prevents the younger players from profiting from the experience of the older ones. With an unbeaten run, the squad looks complete and ready to sweep all before them.

The coach: Djamel Belmadi, for invincibility

In the wake of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Algerians found themselves in a complicated situation. After missing the World Cup in Russia, a new coach Djamel Belmadi arrived on the Algerian bench in the summer of 2018 and was getting ready to start his reform. At that time, Algeria was on the verge of its best days. Only one year later, the coach managed to win the CAN. After that, defeats have been few and far between and Algeria have been able to set a new unbeaten record. Will this recipe work against new opponents?

Algeria's match schedule

When the draw was made, Algeria was regarded as the dark horse. The Fennecs will have to keep up their good form against Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone in Group E. They are expected to do well in the tournament and in the meantime, we will have some fantastic African Cup of Nations fixtures in 2021.

The third title in sight for Algeria

The Algerians will start their Africa Cup of Nations campaign with the impression that they are "invincible". They have 20 wins and nine draws in their last 29 matches. They have not lost a single game since the qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The stars seem to be aligned again for the defending champions. Their squad is getting stronger and stronger, while the confidence seems to be flowing in the veins of the players called up. As a result, Algeria seems to have all the cards in its hands to go for the final victory.

The star player: Riyad Mahrez

A native of Sarcelles, Riyad Mahrez is a shining light in the Manchester City shirt. He is the star player of the Algerian national team for which he is also the captain. He scored the two goals that qualified the citizens for the first Champions League final in their history and is a key part of Pep Guardiola's system. As a strong man for the Fennecs, his teammates can rely on his sharpness in front of the goal as well as his love for the shirt he wears, to carry them through the competition.

Player to watch: Ismael Bennacer

Having been injured several times last season, Ismael Bennacer is among the players expected and watched by the Algerian national team. Although he had a good season in Milan, the midfielder was occasionally slowed down by a few injuries. Named best player of the competition in Egypt, the native of Arles has performed well.

Nigeria National Team

The Super Eagles are one of the most decorated countries in the African Cup of Nations. They were eliminated in the semi-finals of the last edition, but they will have new arguments to make on the continental stage. Nigeria is eagerly looking forward to winning the trophy and going even higher in the African Cup of Nations winners list.

Semi-finalists in 2019 and eliminated at the doors of the round of 16 during the last World Cup in Russia, Nigeria appears to be full of ambitions. They won the African Cup of Nations in 2013 and have played convincingly since the World Cup. What if the time had come for Nigeria to dream of better again?

With quality and efficiency forming an integral part of the Nigerian team, the Eagles logically finished top of their group ahead of Sierra Leone, Benin and Lesotho in the qualifiers. With 14 points, Nigeria almost made a clean sweep by not suffering any defeat.

Nigeria CAN 2022 Squad

With the average age of 26, Jose Peseiro will need to find the right compromise to allow his squad to perform. The likes of William Troost-Ekong and Wilfred Ndidi will bring their experience at the highest level to the team, which should enable them to aim higher.

Nigeria has been on a very good run since 2017, putting in a series of very good performances, which makes them a serious candidate for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations. After being knocked out by the eventual winners of the tournament in 2019, Nigeria still performed well.

The coach: Jose Peseiro, a revival a little too early?

The German Gernot Rohr is now a thing of the past and that can only be a blessing in disguise. His performance in the World Cup qualifiers was very average and he came within a whisker of early elimination. Agustin Egguavonin, while he may be counted as a caretaker, has previously been through various ranks of the national team and has worked at many domestic clubs. While he had the task of selecting the members of the national team, it is Jose Peseiro that has been tasked with bringing the trophy to Nigeria this year.

Nigeria's match schedule

The Super Eagles will face Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Sudan in the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations. Although Egypt is another of the big favourites for the competition, Jose Peseiro's team will have to be wary of the other sides if they want to qualify for the last 16.

Legitimate ambitions for a combative Nigeria?

On January 11, Nigeria will face Egypt, who are expected to show their mettle in a first match that will be a long way from their best. The first match will be far from easy to tackle but the players are well prepared for it. The Nigerians are ambitious and have a good dynamic which should allow them to have real ambitions for this new Africa Cup of Nations.

The star player: Wilfred Ndidi

One of the best players of his club Leicester city and also the Nigerian national team, the strong defensive midfielder is the leader of his team and the one who orchestrates the midfield of the Nigerian national football team. He is well capable of taking his country to the latter stages of the 2021 African Cup of Nations.

The player to watch: Kelechi Iheanacho

The 25-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho is a star performer for Leicester. In spite of a complicated start, the Nigerian international appears to be thriving with the club. With the absence of Victor Osimhen through injury, the striker is expected to continue to perform well for the Super Eagles. But the striker will need to get back to his best soon if he wishes to keep up the momentum or risk being replaced in the national team.

Morocco National team

Having made good progress after the 2018 World Cup, Morocco was unable to convince at the 2019 African Cup of Nations. As part of the most talented teams on the African continent, they were eliminated early in the round of 16. More than ever, this year, Morocco and their golden youth want to be more ambitious for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Provided they do not fall into the same trap as in 2019.

The Moroccan team performed well during the World Cup in Russia and was able to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Atlas Lions were impressive in the group phase but sadly fell to


in the round of 16. This performance was considered very disappointing by the fans, and also by the federation, who could have had great ambitions.

Having been eliminated, Vahid Halilhodžić's men went on to finish top of their qualification group and managed to qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations. While Morocco was twice defeated by Mauritania, the advantage they took allowed them to secure a comfortable first place.

Morocco CAN 2022 Squad

Vahid Halilhodzic, who arrived in the job following the sacking of Herve Renard in July 2019, can claim to have many quality players and a rather golden generation. The likes of Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri and Sofyan Amrabat can combine their freshness with the experience of senior players such as Romain Saïss.

The Moroccan team had to do away with the past to approach this new edition. With a number of quality players currently plying their trade in the major European leagues, Morocco will have plenty to prove on the continental stage.

The coach: Coach Vahid, to build on success and lift the trophy

Vahid Halilhodzic accomplished the feat of qualifying Algeria for the Round of 16 of the World Cup for the very first time in its history in 2014. A strong character with clear ambitions, he has made the World Cup his primary objective since his arrival on the national team's bench. However, the former Nantes coach has not abandoned the African Cup of Nations and is determined to make up for the early elimination in 2019.

Vahid has had a string of achievements since he took over the job. Having won 17, drawn five and lost none of his 21 games, the Moroccan coach appears to have found the "perfect" recipe to make the group work. Last February, he won the African Nations Championship, his first trophy with Morocco.

He is respected by his men and has made some important decisions, such as removing Hakim Ziyech from the squad for disciplinary reasons. With him on the bench, the Moroccans can hope for many things. They will have to confirm all these good words and give everything to win the second African Cup of Nations in the history of the country in January.

Morocco's match schedule

Morocco will have to be tough in January if they want to make it to the last 16 and beyond. Having been drawn in Group C, the team will be up against other great African nations, who will want to make it through. The group phase will be a difficult one for Achraf Hakimi and his team, with Ghana, Comoros and Gabon.

A solid squad to bring home the trophy after 45 years

With a complete squad, combining experience, youth and ambition, Vahid would appear to be the man for the job. If they continue to succeed, Morocco, the underdogs of the competition, will no doubt be able to compete with the favourites.

While this good run of form is fresh, it does not show the true level of the games that have been played at times. As the coach of a young team that can sometimes lack maturity, Vahid will need to tighten the lock to make the Moroccan people dream. Having won the African Cup of Nations in 1976, what if 2022 was the key moment to aspire again?

The star player at the CAN: Achraf Hakimi

Since he arrived at

Paris Saint-Germain

from Inter Milan, the young and talented Achraf Hakimi has taken his game to a whole new level. He has a very bright future in front of him who is considered a world-class right-back. With his impressive style of attacking play and quick openings, he can score some great goals, which makes him one of the most unique in his position. In this way, he can be considered an extra asset for the Moroccan team and its future.

The player to watch: Youssef En-Nesyri

The 24-year-old Youssef En-Nesyri is another example of the quality of the Moroccan youth. The

FC Sevilla

striker has delighted his coach at club level since the start of the season, being one of the top scorers. The Moroccan striker is in great form and might be the source of some brilliant performances at the African Cup of Nations.

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