AFCON 2021: 50 Days Countdown

The 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations-the biennial international men’s football championship of Africa organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon, from 9 January to 6 February 2022 is 50 days away from today.

The tournament, originally scheduled to be played in June and July 2021, but had been postponed to 15 January 2020, due to unfavourable climatic conditions during this period, the tournament would take place from 9 January to 6 February 2021. On 30 June 2020, the tournament was moved for the second time to January 2022 following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the continent, whilst retaining the name 2021 Africa Cup of Nations for sponsorship purposes.

With 50 days to go, will begin a countdown to the AFCON with statistics of the competition in time past, the participating teams, the stadium, players to watch out for and other important information to know going into the tournament.

Bidding and Hosting Right
On 30 November 2018, CAF stripped Cameroon from hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, however, the erstwhile CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad said that Cameroon had agreed to host the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Consequently, Ivory Coast, original hosts of 2021, will host the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, and Guinea, original hosts of 2023, will host the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations. On 30 January 2019, the CAF President confirmed the timetable shift, after a meeting with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Prior, to the CAF Executive Committee meeting on 24 January 2014, it was announced that three official candidates have tendered their bids for the 2021 edition. Originally, Algeria, Guinea, Ivory Coast; the Gambia, who rejected the bid, DR Congo, Gabon, Zambia were all listed by CAF as nations with a bid to host the 2019 AFCON in 2013. After consideration of the bids, voting took place and the announcement of the final vote at the CAF Executive Committee meeting, on 20 September 2014, was made known. CAF announced the hosts for the AFCON tournaments as 2019 to Cameroon, 2021 to Ivory Coast, and 2023 to Guinea respectively.

Now that the AFCON will officially be staged in Cameroon, we will be taking a tour into the tournament with details of past events dating back to 1957-64 years old and would be 65 at the next AFCON, in Cameroon.

The Event
The CAF Africa Cup of Nations, officially CAN (French: Coupe d’Afrique des Nations), also referred to as AFCON, is the main international men’s association football competition in Africa. Sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), it was first held in 1957. Since 1968, it has been held every two years, switching to odd-numbered years in 2013.

Due to certain reasons, the AFCON has on four different occasions not taken place in the supposed year: 1961 which was moved to 1962, 1964 to 1963 and 1966 to 1965. From 1968, the tournament has held biennially till 2012. In 2013, the date changed to odd years and has since taken place accordingly till 2019. The 2021 edition, though will still carry the name 2021, was postponed to 2022 just like almost every other sporting event including the Olympics, due to the 2020 pandemic that almost put an end to man’s existence.

Maiden Edition, Hosts
At the maiden edition, Sudan, in 1957 as won by Egypt-first of their seven won, there were only three participating nations: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. South Africa was originally scheduled to compete but was disqualified due to the apartheid policies of the government then in power. Ever since there have been 32 editions of the tournament hosted amongst 17 independent nations and 3 co-hosting totalling 20 hosts.

The first co-hosting by two Africa countries was the 2000 edition co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana, with the final match played at the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos state.

Past Winners
There have been 15 winners of the competition since its inception; Only on two occasions (1974 won by Zaire and 2019 by Algeria) has Egypt, the most successful nation with 7 titles to their names, 3 times as host (1959, 1986, 2006) and 4 on other ground: Sudan (1957), Burkina Faso (1998) Ghana (2008) and Angola (2010) as well as the country with the highest number of hosting, 5 times, has failed to win as host.

Out of the 20 previous winners, 11 of them have hosted the tournament only on an occasion: Nigeria (1980), Libya (1982), Ivory Coast (1984), Morocco (1998), Algeria (1990), Senegal (1992), Burkina Faso (1998), Mali (2000), Angola (2010), Equatorial Guinea (2015) and Gabon (2017)-only 4 of them: Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Algeria have won the tournament at least on one occasion.

Participating Teams at the 33rd Edition
The draw ceremony for the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals was officially conducted at the Conference Centre, Yaounde, Cameroon on Tuesday 17th August 2021, with the six groups drawing mouthwatering encounters

The expanded 24-team tournament will take place in Cameroon from 9th January, till 6th February 2022

The host nation, Cameroon have been drawn in Group A alongside Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde Island.

Last edition finalists, Senegal with their arrays of stars will be hoping to better their two times appearances in the final with no positive results, in this tournament, but must battle their ways past the Warriors of Zimbabwe, Guinea and third time appearing team, Malawi.

In Group C, Morocco and Ghana are strong favourites to progress after being drawn against Gabon and debuting Comoros Island, neither of these two is to be taken for granted due to their impressive qualifying campaigns.

It’s however mixed feelings for Super Eagles of Nigeria as they are paired with Pharaohs of Egypt, the first AFCON host, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau joining them in banana peeling Group D.

Holders Algeria should have a smooth run to the round of 16 of the tournament as they will be meeting underachievers in Sierra Leone, who will be looking to break the jinx of not advancing beyond the group stage since debuting in 1994, with Equatorial Guinea who also will want to go one step beyond their fourth-placed finish in 2015 and 2015 winners, Côte d’Ivoire completing Group E.

In Group F, Tunisia and Mali must be wary of another debuting side, The Gambia who have turned to a very deadly side since Tom Saintfiet took over the Scorpions in 2018, as well as Mauritania, who are making their second appearance at the football showpiece, after their debut in 2019, in South Africa.

Up Next
In our next countdown, we will take a look into the areas where stadia to be used are based, the stadia as well and other interesting information about the tournament.

Photos: google

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