• Twenty three (23) teams have qualified for the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
By Beng Emmanuel
The final qualification process for the 2021 African Cup of nations were concluded last March across the continent with only spot left for next year’s biennial continental event. The Last qualifying team will be determined in June between Benin and Sierra Leone.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) rescheduled the group L clash pitting both teams after it was called off when five Benin players received news they had tested positive for Covid-19 and would not be allowed to play.
Amongst the twenty (23) countries qualified are the host nation Cameroon, defending champions Algeria as well as debutants Comoros and the Gambia. There are some other nations making their comeback to the continents premier sporting event after missing out from previous editions.
There are also prominent absentees from next year’s nation’s Cup like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.
The 2021 African Cup of Nations will take place from January 9th – February 6th, 2022. Meanwhile, the draw for the competition will take place on the 25th of June 2021.
Prior to the start of the competition next year, GinaInforms looks at the various teams qualified to take part at the African Cup of Nations finals in 2021.
Host Cameroon is the first nation qualified for the African Cup of Nations. It is the second time the Central African Nation will stage the expanded 24 team tournament after 1972 where they crashed out in the quarter-final.
It will be the Indomitable Lions’ twentieth (20) participation. The five time African champions are aiming to clinch their sixth continental crown and close-in on Egypt currently on seven trophies.
Cameroon finished top of group F with eleven (11) points and only lost a single game to Cape Verde on match day five. They had a fairly easy campaign during the qualifiers but most do a lot to convert the trophy on home soil.
They failed to defend their trophy during the previous edition in 2019 after losing to arch-rivals Nigeria in the quarter-finals. Next year presents the avenue to make amends.
The Desert foxes of Algeria are the defending African Cup of Nations champions. It is their second continental crown after achieving the memorable feat in 1990.
They are among the first team to qualify for the AFCON Games with two games to spare during the qualifiers which they finished unbeaten with fourteen points. They have now gone 24 games unbeaten in all competitions. If Les Fennecs go two more games unbeaten, they will match the continental record held by Côte d’Ivoire.
Algeria will be making their nineteenth participation after winning the trophy when Egypt staged the event in 2019. They are no doubt among the favourites for the competition and look forward to defend their trophy in Cameroon.
Senegal are in pursuit of their maiden AFCON title despite being regulars at the competition.
They lost two finals including that of 2002 and 2019 to Cameroon and Algeria respectively. Like Algeria, the Teranga Lions finished the qualifiers unbeaten, recording an incredible fourteen points. They have one of the most formidable sides on the continent.
Senegal will be banking on her star player; Sadio Mane and Edouard Mendy to make history after they twice succumbed to defeat in their previous participation.
Tunisia sealed her qualification in early November after being held to a 1-1 draw against Tanzania at the National Stadium in Dar Es Salaam. They dropped points for the first and only time in the qualifiers, after the draw. They won all their remaining matches and finished top of group J with sixteen (16) points.
The Carthage Eagles last won the competition in 2004. With such incredible results, the North African giants are poised to dethrone holder Algeria for their second trophy.
Six time winners Egypt endured a difficult start in the qualifiers after two successive draws to Kenya at home and Comoros. However, the Pharoahs rekindled their lost spark and finished top of their group.
They will be featuring at the AFCON Games for the twenty-fifth time.
They are the most titled team on the continent with seven trophies. And there are glaring signs they are eyeing the eighth next year. Liverpool’s lethal finisher Mohamed Salah, and Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny are some of the star players in the team.
Morocco’s shocking 4-1 penalty shoot-out defeat to Benin in 2019 continues to hunt the team. Horrifying scenes of their early elimination could only be discarded by a glorious 2022 campaign.
Their best performance was in 1976 when they won their first and only title until date.
They finished top of group E unbeaten with fourteen points. They have probably one of the best spins in African football with Yaccine Bounou in between the sticks, Romain Saiss at the defence, Hakim Ziyech in the midfield and Munir El Hadadi upfront.
Morocco is also a top contender for the AFCON trophy.
The Elephants are two time winners and regulars at the competition. In their twenty-fourth spell at the AFCON, Patrice Beaumelle is keen on seeing the two-time winners do better than their quarter-final finish in 2019.
They also finished top of their group K four points clear the top. They lost just a single game in the qualifiers to Ethiopia.
AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, Serge Aurier, Sebastien Haller, Max Gradel and Gervinho who all scored during the qualifiers will be expected to keep up the performance to take the trophy home.
Mali like Algeria, Senegal and Cameroon were among the first nation to book a place for the AFCON Games.
The Eagles faced little opposition from their rivals finishing top of group A. Their lone defeat was that against Guinea on match day five in Conakry.
Mali is yet to taste any nation Cup success. They finished runners-up in 1972 when Cameroon hosted the tournament. They are aiming to end their trophy drought in a country where they came so close to achieving their first title.
Hosting the AFCON Games without neighbours and eternal rivals Nigeria in Cameroon wouldn’t have been so entertaining like it would be.
The Super Eagles have a vibrant squad capable of conquering the continent with relative ease. They are looking forward to claiming their fourth title after 1980, 1994, and 2013.
Nigeria finished the qualifiers with fourteen points without losing a game. Their star player Victor Osimhen finished joint top scorer alongside Zambia’s 22-year-old prodigy Patson Daka.
After taking out Cameroon in 2019 during the round of 16, and edging South Africa in the quarter-finals, they lost to eventual winners Algeria in the semi’s.
However, the beat Tunisia 1-0 in the third place playoff games to make up for their unsuccessful campaign. Gernot Rhor is working towards taking over the continent by storm. His team’s potential and zeal is clear signs of the determination.
The Black Stars of Ghana have an incredibly record in the history of the African Cup of Nations.
They won back-to-back titles in 1963 and 1965, and two other trophies were acquired in 1978 and 1982.
The team has lost five finals and are hoping to correct errors of the past when they arrive Cameroon. They emerged top of a highly contested group with Sudan and South Africa whom they outsmarted.
For the first time since 2017, Gabon will feature at the AFCON finals. They are among several nations still in pursuit of a continental crown.
Their best finish was in 1996 and 2012 when they crashed out at the quarter-finals. Gabon co-hosted the 2012 AFCON with Equatorial Guinea where they crashed out in the quarterfinals a penalty shoot-out to Mali.
Five years later, they staged the 2017 Nations Cup but suffered from an early elimination in the group stage. The Panthers are self-assured to end their title drought in 2022.
The Warriors have never reached the knock-out stage of the AFCON Games in their previous four appearances… in 2004, 2006, 2017, and 2019.
Zimbabwe have dominated Southern African football. They have won the COSAFA Cup; a football tournament that involves teams from Southern Africa, a record six times. But they have failed to translate their regional dominance to the Nation’s Cup.
They had a difficult qualification in group H, managing two wins, two defeats and two draws. The team led by a Croatian football manager Zdravko Logarusic hopes to end their group stage spell in the fifth appearance at the continental football tournament.
Sudan is one of the oldest teams in Africa and the first team to win the AFCON Games.
They are one of the three teams to participate in the inaugural Africa Cup of Nations, the other two being Egypt and Ethiopia.
They are making their comeback for the first time since taking part at the 2012 edition making their ninth appearance.
Sudan finished a point behind group winners Ghana. They won four (4) games and lost two (2).
Ethiopia won their first African Cup of Nations at home in 1962. Since then, they have never come close to winning the trophy. They have featured ten (10) times in the tournament and are bracing up for their eleventh participation.
They had difficult qualifiers and only booked a place in her final matches at the expense of Madagascar by a point. They won only three games and lost the others.
The Walia Ibex are working towards giving their long football tradition a new dawn.
During the qualifiers, Sudan finished second in their group, only a point behind leaders Ghana. They are among the big nations making a comeback to the competition.
In 1976, Guinea finished as runners-up of the African Cup of nations after losing to Morocco in the final. That defeat, happens to be their best ever performance in the history of the AFCON Games.
Syli Nationale however reached the quarterfinals in four recent editions in 2004, 2006 and 2008. In 2019, they exited the competition in the round of 16.
Guinea is counting on its skipper Naby Keita of Liverpool and the CHAN sensation Morlaye Sylla to guide the squad to their first ever AFCON title.
Guinea Bissau are among the least most-capped nations in the AFCON Games with only two successive spells; their debut in 2017 and also in 2019. They failed to go past the group stage of the games in their previous appearances.
It is their third successive appearance at the continental competition. They secured qualification after finishing second behind Senegal in a highly contested and animated group.
Guinea Bissau may not look threatening at first sight, but they won’t obviously give up without a decent fight.
Equatorial Guinea has the same number of appearances as Guinea Bissau. But the Nzalang Nacional have a more pleasant story to tell.
They qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations on three occasions, the first two times as hosts (in 2012 and 2015). They reached the quarter-finals in 2012 and finished fourth place in 2015.
Equatorial Guinea are also eyeing their first trophy at the AFCON Games.
The Flames of Malawi qualified for the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010. They have previous stints at the continental premier competition in 1984 and 2010.
Malawi has secured her third participation for Cameroon 2021 after ending a more than a decade wait. They are among the least capped teams for next year’s nations Cup.
The three times CECAFA Cup winners, outsmarted Uganda and South Sudan to qualify from group B with the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
Mauritania have qualified for only their second Afcon finals after 2019 in Egypt.
The Lions of Chinguetti finished second of group E with nine (9) points, five behind group winners Morocco-who finished unbeaten.
Mauritania won two (2) games, drew three (3) and lost one (1) to help them secure back-to-back qualification for the African Cup of Nations.
They had one of the most exciting performances during the last two days of the qualifiers picking up all six points in two games.
Cape Verde stunned host Cameroon 3-1 thanks to a late comeback and narrowly edged Mozambique 1-0 to take themselves out of sight in group F. They finished second of the group unbeaten during qualifiers.
This is the third time they have qualified for the AFCON Games. Their last spell was in 2015. In 2013, they reached the quarterfinals.
The Stallions made their AFCON debut in 1978 when they finished 8th. Over the years, they have become an unrivalled force in African football although they are yet to win their first AFCON title.
Their best ever participation was in 2013, when they reached the final. In 1998 They finished fourth in 1988, when they hosted the competition.
Burkina Faso failed to qualify for the previous edition in 2019-only the first time after featuring at five consecutive editions.
They will be making their twelfth participation next year.
Finally, Comoros and the Gambia complete the list of teams qualified so far. Both teams will be making their debut, following in the footstep of Madagascar who impressed in their first attempt in 2019 by reaching the quarter-finals.
Here are some facts you shouldn’t ignore:
• No team managed to win all their games during the group stage. Tunisia came the closest with five wins and one draw.
• Four of the top six scorers in qualifying will miss the tournament: South Africa’s Percy Tau (4 goals), Central Africa Republic’s Louis Mafouta (4), Burundi’s Saidi Ntibazonkiza (4) and Zambia’s Patson Daka (5).
• Eight teams went unbeaten throughout the qualifiers: Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Cabo Verde, Morocco, and Burkina Faso.
• Two teams will be making their AFCON debut in Cameroon: Gambia and Comoros. Meanwhile, Malawi will be returning to the continental championship for the first time since 2010.