Everything you need to know about AFCON 2022 tournament in Cameroon

2022 will welcome its first football major tournament starting from 9 January in Cameroon, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2022). 

The AFCON tournament was scheduled to start in July 2021, but the month was changed to January 2022 to avoid the rainy season and Covid-19 cases in Cameroon. 

This has led to an avalanche of criticism faced by The Confederation of African Football (CAF) regarding the tournament’s timing and a surge of new variant Omicron in the country.

How many nations will participate, and the timing of the games?

In the second successive tournament, there will be 24 participants. Out of 24 nations, six groups will be made in which four nations will be put in each of them. The top, two will qualify for the knockout stages and four best-ranked will go in third-round side.

The matches will broadcast at 13:00, 16:00 and 19:00 (all times GMT) during the group stages, while the latter two will be used on a round of 16 starting from 23 January.

Some unknown facts about AFCON 2022 tournament. 

- In 2017, Essam el Hadary, the Egyptian goalkeeper, became the oldest player in AFCON history when he featured against Cameroon aged 44 years and 21 days

- When the first African Cup of Nations took place in 1957, only three nations took part in the tournament. 

- The competition is held in odd-numbered years to not clash with FIFA World Cup

- In AFCON history, only one player has won the tournament’s MVP twice. Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Hassan, in 2006, and again in 2010. Hassan is also the most capped player with 179 appearances for Egypt.

After the CAF president, the real name of the AFCON trophy was Abdelaziz Abdallah Salem Trophy.

Who are the top contenders for AFCON 2022?

It looks like Algeria will retain the AFCON, as they are in a 34-match unbeaten led by Manchester City star player Riyad Mahrez.

On the other hand, Senegal and Egypt are other top-ranked teams of Africa, the former one were the runners-up in 2019, and this time as well, they will be the main challengers spearhead by Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane. 

Egypt will be the main contenders who boast a strong squad. Their talisman Mohamed Salah has shone for Liverpool and will continue his fine form in the tournament. 

Other nations are Ghana and Nigeria, which can be the banana skin for the favourites. Cameroon can fancy their chances on home soil. 

Mali did well in the Word cup qualifying stage by reaching play-offs and will emulate the same performance in AFCON. Ivory CoastMorocco and Tunisia will cause a threat to big ones. Comoros and The Gambia will play their first-ever tournament.

Covid-19 and other issues during off the field 

Evidently, the Covi-19 has affected the tournament, which led to the rescheduling of AFCON to 2022. Cameroon has been hit by Covid -19 wave, as the Omicron variant of the virus is on the rise. The CAF has allowed 60% of the attendance, while Cameroon permitted 80% capacity.

Only those spectators can attend the venue, who have been fully vaccinated, and according to figures from Our World in Data, only 2% of the country has been fully jabbed. The tournament is around the corner. It will be interesting how people will follow the restriction until 7 February. 

However, several countries have been already hit by an outbreak in their training camp, which led to the postponement of the friendlies game.

Other issues like security concerns have been highlighted in Cameroon. There has been a conflict, which going on over the years by local militants to form a separatist agenda.  

The idea of separatist agenda came to light when militants were marginalised by the French-speaking government, who tried to form their own state called Ambazonia.

It’s been said there was a bomb explosion last year when AFCON was supposed to take place in Cameroon across Limbe. 

And there has been a further bomb explosion in recent months. However, the government has said, tight security has been deployed to avoid the disruption in Limbe, which is set to host eight matches.

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