The countdown is on for the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2022), set to hold in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2022. This is the 33rd edition of the competition. It was initially scheduled to take place between June and July of 2021. However, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) pushed it back to January and February 2022 due to COVID-19.
Sadly, the new Omicron variant is threatening the competition once again. CAF has said it would import its laboratory and bypass local healthcare facilities to test players during the tournament. Fans will also be required to show proof of vaccination and present a negative COVID-19 test result to attend matches.
Why AFCON 2022 is still called AFCON 2021
After the successful hosting of the competition in Egypt in 2019, in which Algeria won against Senegal by 1 goal to nil in the final, the next edition was to be held after two years, which is the normal routine.
It is essential to know that the preliminary round as well as two matchdays were played between October 9 and November 19, 2019. However, the qualifier matches were then postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa.
Furthermore, CAF decided to push the competition to 2022 after a special meeting, but the name AFCON 2021 was to be retained. On March 31, 2021, CAF decided that the new date for the African Cup of Nations would be January 9 to February 6, 2022, exactly a year after its original kick-off date.
The qualifying teams
About 24 teams have qualified for the forthcoming AFCON 2022. Besides the host and the defending champions, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal (who finished second in the 2019 edition), Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Morocco are among the 24 teams that have qualified.
Other teams making up the 24 teams are Guinea, Comoros, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Malawi, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Cape Verde, and Sierra Leone. The 24 qualifying teams will be divided into six groups with 4 teams in each group. The top two in each group will proceed to the knockout stage of the competition. The Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé will host the first match of the competition between Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
Who do you think will win AFCON 2022?
The debate on who will win AFCON 2022 is on. The usual set of nations capable of winning the tournament will rumble on till the tournament begins. Nonetheless, our AFCON 2022 winner predictions will dive deeper into those that will likely win. We will evaluate them based on their previous achievements and how well they performed during the qualifiers. So, who will take the crown in Yaounde come February?
The Pharaohs need no introduction in the continent having won AFCON seven times. They are default challengers to the tournament. Also, the country remained unbeaten during their six qualifying games due to their beautiful team play. Egypt is in the same group (GROUP D) that includes Nigeria. There is no doubt that the AFCON 2022 winner could very well be from this group.
Furthermore, Hossam El-Badry’s men are a well-equipped side that would be bolstered by arguably the best player in the world right now, Mohammed Salah. Winning every match in AFCON 2022 will hinge on how they can depend on togetherness and unity which has served them so well in the past.
Nigeria also needs no introduction to AFCON, having been victorious three times in the past. The last time they won the tournament was in 2019. The Super Eagles have been clinical during their qualifying matches, and they didn’t lose any game.
The Super Eagles are drawn in Group D alongside their longtime rivals Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea Bissau. On paper, it is expected that they should progress comfortably. The talented core of players currently in their ranks could easily turn out to become a golden generation in Nigerian football history. The coaching problem in the team will likely be their biggest setback.
Algeria remains the tournament’s favorite. However, the defending champions are still enjoying their 27-game unbeaten run which will not please Group E rivals Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Equatorial Guinea. The Fennec Foxes have won the AFCON tournament twice. The first one was in 1990 and the second in 2019. However, they will be looking to become just the fourth nation after Ghana, Egypt, and Cameroon to successfully defend their AFCON title.
Furthermore, Algeria will naturally look up to captain Riyad Mahrez’s decisiveness and record goalscorer Islam Slimani. Algeria showed its technicality during the AFCON 2019 tournament and also the AFCON 2022 qualifying matches. Nonetheless, a united effort should once again be good enough to conquer the best in Africa as they chase Italy’s longest unbeaten record in international football.
The Indomitable Lions have come a long way since Clarence Seedorf’s unsuccessful tenure in 2019. However, the five-time AFCON champions will have raucous home support to push them throughout the tournament. But Toni Conceição’s men would need to recreate their heroics of 2017 and deliver a sensational win in front of their home crowd.
However, Cameroon won five of their six AFCON qualifying matches after losing 3-1 to Cape Verde. Cameroon is well-equipped to once again stun the continent. They will look up to André Onana, who just returned from global suspension, captain Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and the dynamic Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
It is essential to know that Ghana is surely a great contender for AFCON 2022. The four-time AFCON champions will be looking to win it for the fifth time. Although they only lost a game during the qualifying matches, they will be hoping to claim the trophy once more.
Ghana is also blessed with talented players such as Felix Afena Gyan, Thomas Teye Partey, Jordan Ayew, and Dede Ayew. Nonetheless, Coach Milovan Rajevac will be hoping the Black Stars clinch the title with his 30-man provisional squad. Their first match is against Morocco.
#6: Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast has won the AFCON tournament twice. Out of their six qualifying games, they only lost one, which was against Ethiopia. The country’s star men, Wilfried Zaha, Nicolas Pepe, and Eric Bailly, are among the Premier League players included in Ivory Coast’s provisional 28-player squad for the Africa Cup of Nations next month. The team will be a tight contender as they will be looking to get the AFCON 2022 title.
Senegal captured the imagination of Africa in 2019 when their group of superstars got close to clinching their first-ever AFCON triumph. The defeat to Algeria two years ago hurt their world-class performers and the Teranga Lions will have retribution firmly in their minds in Cameroon. Having lost the 2019 finals, Aliou Cissé’s men are determined to right their wrongs.
They showed how good they are during the qualifying matches by not losing a match. The team boast of arguably the best keeper in Africa if not the world, Édouard Mendy. Also, having the likes of Sadio Mané, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and Ismaïla Sarr, makes this team more than a mere challenger.
The last time Morocco won the AFCON was in 1976. However, the Morocco squad will be looking to add more prestige to their ranks by winning AFCON 2022. Also, the Atlas Lions performed well during the qualifiers by scaling through without losing a game. Morocco will be in AFCON 2022 without their star man Hakim Ziyech. Coach Vahid Halilhodžić will be hoping they start on a good note when they face Ghana.
The Carthage Eagles also performed well during the qualifying matches—they didn’t lose a game. Although they haven’t won the AFCON before, they will be hoping to get it this time around. Tunisia will begin their AFCON journey on 12 January against Mali, before facing their remaining group opponents Mauritania and Gambia respectively.
Mali is also a contender in the AFCON 2022. They played well in the qualifiers – lost just a game out of the six matches. Mali has never won AFCON before, but there will be hoping to conquer Africa this time around. Their first match is against Tunisia, and they need to start on a good note. Write them off at your peril.
The AFCON 2022 promises to be exciting as 24 African teams will lock horns. We profiled 10 teams that are top contenders to win the tournament. This isn’t to say other teams that have qualified don’t stand a chance, but the above-listed teams have previous achievements and played well in the qualifiers. So which team do you think will win AFCON 2022, please let’s know in the comment section below.