Africa Goes to War as AFCON 2021 kicks off in Cameroon on Sunday

By Harry Awurumibe, Editor-in-Chief, Abuja

The 24 Participating Teams and Six Groups

In less than 48 hours from today, all eyes will be on the Central African country, Cameroon, the host of the 33rd African Cup of Nations (AFCON) as no fewer than 24 countries including Nigeria will battle for the coveted trophy for the continent’s biggest football tournament.

Tagged AFCON  Cameroon 2021, the competition which will kick off on Sunday, January 9 will end on Sunday, February 6, 2022 even as host, Cameroon will tackle Burkina Faso in the opening match slated at newly built Olembe Stadium in the capital, Yaounde at 4pm local time.
Later at 7pm, Ethiopia and Cape Verde will square up in the second Group A clash which will establish the early leader of the group to set the stage of a full month football hostilities amongst the 24 contending countries for the AFCON trophy.
Already, the organizers, the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) has announced that the winner of 2021 AFCON trophy in Cameroon will cart home an improved purse of €4.5m, an increase from the €3.9m Prize Money  given to Algeria, winners of the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
Also, the African football governing body has now fixed Prize Money for the runners-up at €2.64m; while the third-place playoff winners (the  semi-finalists teams) will henceforth get €2.2m each.
In the same vein, all quarter-finalists are entitled to get  €703,361 each while each of the 24 participating countries in the competition will receive at least €534,000 as “thanks for coming”.

Super Eagles

But aside the above financial reason, national pride will be the motivation for the participating teams  or countries to go all out to fight for the AFCON trophy which will be handed over to the champions by the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Mr. Paul Biya with the assistance of CAF President, Dr. Patrice Motsepe of South Africa on Sunday, February 6, 2022.

Meanwhile, the 24 participating countries are eligible to lay claims to the coveted trophy which is in the possession of Algeria till January 9 when they will handed it over to CAF for safe keep until February 6 when anyone of the 24 teams including Algeria will be awarded the Cup.
However, many countries including Nigeria are eyeing the 201 AFCON trophy but it’s too early to predict which of the 24 nations will cart home the ultimate prize, although football followers in and outside African continent believe that the  front-runners for the Cup are the first  five top teams in Africa according to last December FIFA World Rankings.
They are Senegal rated No. 1 in Africa and No. 20 in the world; Morocco-2 (28); Algeria- 3 (29); Tunisia- 4 (30) and Nigeria- 5 (36) respectively.
This is even as Egypt-6 (45); Cameroon-7 (50); Ghana-8 (52); Mali-9 (53) and
Côte d’Ivoire-10 (56) are also strong contenders for the AFCON trophy, at least on paper.
Interestingly, 2021 AFCON in Cameroon will be  the second consecutive time 24 countries will participate in the biennial tournament after a successful run in Egypt in 2019.
This year signals the 33rd edition of the tournament which began in 1957 and nominally takes place every two years with rare exceptions like the one in Cameroon which was earlier postponed because of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) which is still ravaging the world.
The first tournament which held in Sudan in 1957 featured just three teams with Egypt beating Ethiopia in the final having earlier overcome the hosts even as it has over the years continued to grow and expand from three to the present 24-team format with Algeria the reigning champions after  beating Senegal 1-0 in the 2019 final in Egypt.
Nevertheless, with the presence of top Africa stars holding their own in top European, Asian and North American football leagues in Cameroon, the football world will be entertained by these African exports to the world.
Amongst the top African stars already in Cameroon with their national teams are English Premier League players like Mohamed Salah, Egypt/ Liverpool; Sadio Mane, Senegal/Liverpool; goalkeeper Edourd Mandy, Senegal/Chelsea and Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City.
Yet there Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City; Cote d Ivoire’s Wilfred Zaha of Crystal Palace; Jordan Ayew of Ghana and Crystal Palace; Naby Keita of Guinea and Liverpool and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Gabon and Arsenal
The list is long hence the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon will produce alot of surprises as many stars will shine while others will flop with their teams beginning from Sunday,  January 9 at 60,000 seater Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.
There are Six Groups of Four teams who play each other once. The top two from each group automatically progress to the last 16 knockout stage.
They will be joined by the four best third-placed teams with the bottom six teams in each group and the two third place teams with the worst records being eliminated.
Let the ‘Fireworks’ Start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *