Africa Cup of Nations: Everything you need to know
The Africa Cup of Nations, delayed from 2021, has kicked off from January 9 onwards. The tournament is being held in Cameroon. The AFCON comprises of 24 teams, split into six groups of four. The group stage has already started as the big guns aim to make their presence felt and seek qualification to the next round. Here are the complete details.
A look at the six groups
Here are the 24 teams divided into six groups (A to F), taking part in the tourney. Group A: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia Group B: Guinea, Senegal, Malawi, Zimbabwe Group C: Gabon, Morocco, Comoros, Ghana Group D: Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan, Egypt Group E: Algeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea Group F: Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Tunisia
Why does it matter?
- The AFCON 2021 suffered a delayed start due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- It was scheduled to start in June 2021.
- Cameroon is hosting the tournament after 50 years amid all the gloom of COVID-19.
- Prior to the tournament, several top African players had to pull out because of various reasons to take some shine out.
- However, the tourney still has a lot to offer.
Which teams are the favorites?
As per Reuters, defending champions Algeria came into the tournament, enjoying a 34-game unbeaten run in all competitions. They have started the tournament with a 0-0 show against Sierra Leone. Africa's top-ranked side for the past three years - Senegal - can also prove to handful and challenge for the trophy. Notably, Senegal were beaten by Algeria in the 2019 AFCON final.
Players to watch out for
Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez has been in terrific form. In the ongoing 2021-22 season, he has scored 13 goals for the Premier League champions. He also had a strong campaign for Algeria in 2021, scoring eight times in nine matches. Besides Mahrez, Liverpool forward Sadio Mane can be highly influential. Egypt star Mohamed Salah is another star attraction alongside Leicester's Kelechi Iheanacho.
Key details about the tourney
The top two teams from each group will progress to the round of 16 (knockout stage). These 12 teams will be joined by the four best-ranked third-placed sides across the six groups. The knockout stages will have the quarters, semis, and the final.
AFCON 2021: Key results of matchday one
Matchday one of the group stage saw Egypt get beaten 1-0 by Nigeria. Sofiane Boufal's 83rd-minute goal helped Morocco beat Ghana. Meanwhile, Mane's 97th-minute penalty helped Senegal earn a difficult 1-0 win over Zimbabwe. Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1.