Draw for the 2021 U17 African Cup of Nations was held on February 24, 2021. The excitement was building as the opening game was to kick off on 13 March 2021. The football world was waiting patiently to see which nation has the greatest youth side as twelve African nations battle it out in Morocco. Sadly, the tournament will no longer hold.
Only five days to the start of the tournament, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced a last-minute cancellation citing the COVID-19 pandemic. There are divergent views on the topic. Some are of the opinion that CAF would have postponed the event or look for an alternative venue. Part of the statement by CAF read,
“The Committee was made aware of the constraints faced by some of the participating member associations as well as the host country, including the fact that the coronavirus pandemic continues to present significant challenges for the organization of international sporting events”.
Previous U17 tournaments have led to the discovery of young talents. Many of them went ahead to become superstars in European clubs. Apparently, the U17 African Cup of Nation has become one of the best platforms for launching young talents onto the global stage.
Recent African Cup Of Nations U17 Tournament Star Players
Victor Osimhen put up a spectacular performance at the 2015 U17 African Cup of Nations. He was the leading goal scorer at the tournament. However, the Nigerian side was beaten in the semi-finals by South Africa. Osimhen’s breakthrough season was not over though. He subsequently won the U17 FIFA World Cup, scoring 10 goals. His efforts also saw him awarded a contract to Wolfsburg, in Germany. At just 22 years old, a bright future awaits this soccer star.
The Guinean striker played a vital role in pushing his country to a third-place finish at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. Traore played an inspirational role, scoring six goals in five games. Djibril Tarore’s solo efforts were enough to achieve the tournament’s Golden Boot Award and qualify his country for the 2017 FIFA World Cup U17 tournament. The striker now plays in England for the Watford U23 team and is definitely looking to make a great impression overseas.
The Cameroonian midfielder played an exceptional role at the 2019 African Cup of Nations U17 tournament. Mvoue captained the Cameroonian side to their second AFCON U17 title and was awarded the tournament’s Most Valued Player. Currently, the nineteen-year-old is capped by the senior national Cameroonian side, helping the country to secure his future with the national team. Also, Mvoue signed a contract for Toulouse in France. Steve Mvoue will undoubtedly be a force in African soccer for years to come.
2021 African Cup Of Nations U17 Expectations
Prior to the cancellation, the prestigious biannual tournament was set to expand to twelve nations. Soccer-loving North African nation, Morocco, was the host. The games were to hold in three iconic soccer stadiums in the Moroccan cities, Rabat, Casablanca, and Mohamedia. The AFCON U17 was set to roundoff in Mohamedia on 31 March 2021.
All teams were drawn into three groups: A, B, and C. The two teams that top each group after three-match rounds qualify for the tournament’s quarter-finals. These teams will contest until there are only two sides left. The winning team becomes the Africa Cup of Nations U17 champion.
2021 African Cup Of Nations U17 Draw
Following the draw on February 24, 2021, twelve national U17 teams were drawn into three groups. According to analysts, group C was supposed to be the toughest. The breakdown of the grouping was as follows.
Morocco, Uganda, Zambia, and Ivory Coast
Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, and the Republic of Congo
South Africa, Senegal, Mali, and Cameroon
The AFCON U17 groups have been drawn. pic.twitter.com/V27tC28Lpw
— African Insider 🏴 (@African_Insider) February 24, 2021
2021 African Cup Of Nations U17 Teams To Watch
Assuming the tournament went ahead as planned, analysts were already projecting one of the following teams to win the title. The predictions were based on their history in the tournament as well as their performance during the qualification rounds.
Cameroon (Group C)
The last tournament’s champion, Cameroon, was looking forward to defending their title in Morocco. The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations U17 tournament was one of the toughest. Both semi-finals and final saw no goals during regulation time. However, the youthful Cameroonian side held their composure and lifted their second AFCON U17 title in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Nigeria (Group B)
The West African soccer giants are one of the tournament’s favorites. Famous as the Golden Eaglets, the Nigerian U17 soccer team is the most successful African soccer team to date. Having won the FIFA U17 World Cup a record five times, the Golden Eaglets are also two-time champions of Africa. With a solid youth soccer structure in Nigeria, the West African football team was tipped as favorites to win the 2021 African Cup of Nations U17 tournament.
Congratulations to Football Academy Player Emeka Egbu on returning to Nigeria to Captain the U17 National Team in the AFCON.
Emeka Egbu has previously captained Nigeria U17s in the WAFU Qualification and at the U15 age group.
BHCFA would like to wish Emeka Egbu all the best. pic.twitter.com/2hMnCI4YQo
— Brooke House College (@BrookeHouseCol) February 10, 2021
Mali (Group C)
Another West African soccer force fans were eager to watch was Mali. Nicknamed Les Aigles (The Eagles), The Malian U17’s have won the AFCON U17 tournament twice and recently came second in the 2015 FIFA World Cup U17 tournament. Looking to replicate past success, Mali was placed in the tournament’s toughest group.
African Cup of Nations 2021 U17 Tournament Forecast
Dominating teams such as Nigeria and Cameroon will regret the cancellation of the tournament. With the COVID-19 pandemic still a huge problem, it is hard to tell when soccer will make a full return on the continent. However, the players are the biggest losers in all of this. The 2021 U-17 tournament would have been their opportunity to showcase their talent to a wider audience. Nevertheless, do you think it was the right call from CAF to cancel the tournament? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.