The African Cup of Nations will start in a week and PlayOn99 News goes over everything you need to know. Format, teams, groups, conflicts and controversies that the continental tournament that will be played in the middle of the European season has awakened. The clubs asked to postpone it, but FIFA decided that it should be played.
Africa will be celebrating. The AFCON will take place in Cameroon from January 6 to February 6. A month in which the National Teams will seek eternal glory. The tournament is held every two years, unlike most continental competitions.
The top winner is Egypt with 7 championships. The last champion was Algeria: they beat Senegal with a goal from Baghdad Bounedjah and lifted the title in 2019.
The format is classic: 24 countries divided into 6 groups of 4 each. The first and second will pass without problems. The 4 best third parties in each zone will have the benefit of advancing to the Round of 16.
What the groups will be like in AFCON
Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia.
Group B: Senegal, Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe.
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Gabon, Comoros.
Group D: Egypt, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan.
Group E: Algeria, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone.
Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania.
It is a tournament that promises a lot: from the Second Phase, we will have explosive duels with direct elimination. We will have insured crosses between greats of the continent.
We are probably facing the best moment in the history of African football. Half of the national teams have figures in European and international football. The recent FIFA Arab Cup showed the world that Africa outperforms the weaker continents and the last World Cups had African teams in the quarterfinals.
Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mané and Riyad Mahrez are the main stars this tournament presents and the first one will probably deserve a Ballon d’Or next year. Victor Osimhen, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Naby Keita, Sébastien Haller and many more complete the list of players with great potential in this tournament.
The problem? It is played in the middle of the European season and with a calendar full of meetings, but the countries authorized the players to travel after the last day of Saturday and Sunday.
The controversy was installed by the European media and surely had a lobby on the part of the managers. Nobody in Europe wants to lose their players for a month, but it is a continental contest. A national obligation. Gianni Infantino, FIFA president, made the date official despite the request for suspension.
The players received a flood of questioning. Haller, current Champions League scorer, was asked by the Dutch media if he didn’t care about leaving Ajax and said:
“This question shows the disrespect for Africa. Would this question ever get asked to a European player ahead of the EURO’s? Of course I am going to the Africa Cup”.
Ian Wright, a historic English forward, gave his opinion on the matter and added himself to Haller’s questioning.
The Premier League was where the tournament was most questioned. It is true that many teams will lose figures, but the coaches and media defenestrated AFCON openly. Crystal Palace coach Patrick Vieira was the only one who spoke about it:
“Will never stop any player going. I believe there should be more respect towards it. Maybe journalists in Europe should go to Africa and cover it and then they Will understand what it means to the people of Africa”.
How many players will the Big 5 leagues lose during this time? Premier League 31, Bundesliga and La Liga 11, Serie A 23 and the most affected, Ligue 1, with 50. In total, a number of 126 players from the most important competitions in Europe will travel to Cameroon to play this competition. In France, in addition, players will yield the second, third and fourth divisions.
Why is it being played at this time? AFCON is played at this time of year for climatic reasons: in Africa it is winter. This edition was scheduled for January 2021, but the coronavirus changed the map of football around the world. By November 2022 there will be the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and it could not be that close to date, so it was rescheduled for the following January.