Since the Africa Cup of Nations was first held in February 1957, only four host countries have lost during the tournament opening game and eight nations have won as host. Will Cameroon keep to the tradition?
By Beng Emmanuel
The 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations begins on January 9, 2022 with host nation Cameroon to face Burkina Faso in the opening game at the 60.000 sitter Olembe Sport Complex.
It is the second time the biennial continental tournament is staged in Cameroon after 1972. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are poised to make a winning start to the 24-nations tournament. Since the creation of the African Cup of Nations more than six decades ago, only four countries have lost the opening game; Sudan (1957), record winner Egypt (1986), Tunisia (1994) and Burkina Faso (1998). There have been 7 draws and 20 wins.
“It’s been a long time since a host nation lost the opening game of the AFCON. Though we know it is going to be a hard nut to crack playing against Burkina Faso and that’s a game that will determine who tops the group. That’s the toughest duel in group A. The way you enter a competition can tell you how far you can go”-Cameroon Sport Journalist Afeseh Apong told GinaInforms.
Coach Antonio Conceicao and his boys will also try to make history on Sunday to become the fourth host nation to win their second opening game of the Afcon. Cameroon defeated Kenya 2-1 when they last staged the tournament 50 years ago with a brace from Paul-Gaston Ndongo. Egypt won their first game as host in 1959 and 1974, and Ethiopia defeated Tunisia and Uganda in their first two afcon tournaments they hosted in 1962, and 1968.
But most importantly, the Cameroon national team is aiming to become the ninth African country to host and win the tournament. Egypt (1959,1986,2006), Ethiopia(1962), Ghana(1963,1978), Sudan(1970), Nigeria(1980), Algeria(1990), South Africa(1996) and Tunisia(2004) have all achieved that feat.
How has Cameroon fared in their AFCON Opening games
The Indomitable Lions are amongst the most experienced sides on the continent. They are featuring at the Africa Cup of Nations for the 19 times and have won five trophies. Only Egypt has won more (7) trophies than the Central African country.
Since their maiden appearance in 1970, Cameroon national team has suffered five defeats in their opening fixture. Their first ever loss came against Egypt the same year they won their first continental silverware in 1984. They also recorded defeats against Zambia (1990), South Africa (1996), Egypt (2008) and Gabon (2010).
It was in 2010 when Angola staged the event, that Cameroon suffered their last defeat at the Nations Cup opening fixture. They failed to qualify in 2012 and 2013 and drew with Mali (1-1) and Burkina Faso (1-1) on their return in 2015 and later in 2017. Their fortunes changed in 2019 when they beat Guinea Bissau 2-0 in their first game although they were knock-out by Nigeria in the round of 16.
The five-time African champions have also picked up nine wins and five draws in their AFCON opening games since 1970. Against Burkina Faso, Cameroon will be hoping to improve their figures. The Stallions will be hoping to spoil the party and avenge their defeat during the 1998 Afcon opening tie when Cameroon edged them 1-0 in Ouagadougou.
It will be the third time for Cameroon to meet Burkina Faso in their opening fixture of the Afcon after 1998, and 2017.
Summary of Cameroon’s AFCON Opening Games
1. 1970-Cameroon 3-2 Ivory Coast
2. 1972: Cameroon 2-1 Kenya
3. 1974-1980: Did not qualify
4. 1982: Cameroon 1-1 Tunisia
5. 1984: Egypt 1-0 Cameroon
6. 1986: Cameroon 3-2 Zambia
7. 1988: Cameroon 1-0 Egypt
8. 1990: Zambia 1-0 Cameroon
9. 1992: Cameroon 1-0 Morocco
10. 1994: Not qualified
11.1996: South Africa 3-0 Cameroon
12.1998: Burkina Faso 0-1 Cameroon
13. 2000: Ghana 1-1 Cameroon
14. 2002: Cameroon 1-0 DR Congo
15. 2004: Cameroon 1-1 Algeria
16. 2006: Cameroon 3-1 Angola
17. 2008: Egypt 4-2 Cameroon
18. 2010: Cameroon 0-1 Gabon
19. 2012-2013: Failed to qualify
20. 2015: Mali 1-1 Cameroon
21. 2017: Burkina Faso 1-1 Cameroon
22. 2019: Cameroon 2-0 Guinea Bissau