2022 African Cup of Nations Preview

Mohamed Salah Egypt

Liam Bewsher

What is the Structure of AFCON?

Between 9th January and 6th February 2022, the African Cup of Nations takes place in Cameroon, where 24 national teams will all compete to be crowned as the champions of Africa.

The tournament itself is exactly the same as we have seen at the past two European Championship’s, where the 24 teams go into six groups of four, where the top two in each group are guaranteed qualification to the Round of 16, whilst the four best third-place teams also do the same.

Players to Watch

Of course, Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are players that will frequently be mentioned for the best player in the continent, but, lets not also forget that last time out at the AFCON, a Riyad Mahrez inspired Algeria won the tournament having defeated Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal on the way to becoming champions.

There are a whole host of high profile Premier League players who will feature in this tournament, such as Leicester duo Wilfried Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho of Nigeria, whilst there is also Manchester United pair Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo who represent the Ivory Coast, alongside Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal will also likely be Gabon’s star man at the tournament.

A player who will be looking to make the most of this competition is Ajax forward Sebastien Haller. The former West Ham United man changed his international allegiances from French to Ivorian and is the current top scorer in the Champions League, having fired in 10 goals in six Group Stage matches.

Recent History of AFCON

The last time this tournament took place was back in 2019 where Algeria won as mentioned above, although Egypt do have a good record in this tournament, having won it seven times, the most of any side in the competition’s history, but, have not been crowned as champions since 2010, having watched the likes of Nigeria win it in 2013, Ivory Coast in 2015, as well as Cameroon in 2017.

Cameroon’s win in 2017 actually took their overall tally to five, meaning that they are the second-most successful team, having beaten Egypt 2-1 in that final via goals by Watford centre-back Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar, having initially trailed to a Mohamed Elneny strike.

Who Do We Think Will Win?

Typically the AFCON is a tough competition to call, due to a lot of the sides at the top being relatively well-matched in terms of quality.

A team that should fancy their chances of winning the tournament is Nigeria, having finished third-place last time out, they will be aiming to win their first AFCON since 2013 and in general, have a fairly well-rounded squad, with the likes of Ndidi in the midfield alongside the likes of Alex Iwobi and Frank Onyeka as well as having the firepower to do damage to any side they face, with Napoli star Victor Osimhen up-front, as well as Iheanacho, Emmanuel Dennis and more.

Last time out, Nigeria were beaten semi-finalists following a 95th-minute winner by Mahrez for eventual champions Algeria. This should ultimately spur them on, knowing that they have the capability to win the tournament, having fallen short by such narrow margins.

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