After months of uncertainty, the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 will finally kick-off today in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The excitement in Cameroon right from the airports and the cities is huge as locals are excited and ready to grace the beautiful game of football during this 33rd Edition of the AFCON.
However, the Uganda Cranes will this time not be part of the 24 teams that will battle it out in Africa’s biggest football showpiece that will run from January 9th to February 6th in five different towns. The opening match and all other matches will be broadcast live on Uganda Broadcasting Corporation -UBC.
Five time winners of the AFCON -Cameroon will start this campaign with a Group A match against Burkina Faso this evening 07:00 EAT at the Olembe Stadium, then Ethiopia will take on Cape Verde at the same Stadium in a second match.
Out of the 24 teams that will battle it out in the AFCON 2021, ten of them that have won the title before include; Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tunisia.
Ethiopia and Sudan will represent the Council of East and Central African Football Associations (CECAFA) at the tournament.
Because of the challenges of COVID-19, with some teams having their players and staff test positive already, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has issued tough prevention guidelines but it will also allow five substitutions per match.
“If the result of the COVID-19 PCR test of any player is positive, such player will not be authorized to go to the stadium or participate in the applicable match,” said CAF.
According to the rules a team will be required to play a match if they have a minimum of eleven (11) players available, and if any fails to raise a minimum of eleven (11) players, it will be considered to have lost the match 0-2.
The 24 teams have been divided into six pools and action will take place in fve cities Limbe-Buea, Douala and Yaoundé, Garoua and Bafoussam. Group A is made up of hosts Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia. Group B is comprised of 2019 runners-up Senegal, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Guinea. While Group C will see 1976 winners Morocco, four times winners Ghana, debutants Comoros and Gabon to fight for places to the knockout stages.
Group D is the toughest in the tournament with eleven AFCON winning medals between the four teams. Seven time record winners Egypt, three time winners Nigeria, 1970 champions Sudan and minnows Guineas-Bissau complete the Garoua based Group.
In Group E, defending champions Algeria, 1992 and 2015 winners Côte d’Ivoire will seek to show their supremacy over Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone. In Limbe, 2004 winners Tunisia, 1972 runners-up when Cameroon hosted the tournament 50 years ago, Mali, new comers Gambia and the Chinguetti Lions of Mauritania will fight for the top spots in Group F.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of African Football- CAF has approved the increase of the prize money for the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021. The CAF Executive Committee chaired by CAF President, Dr. Patrice Motsepe in Douala, Cameroon reached the decision in their meeting on Friday.
A press statement from CAF says that “the increase is in line with CAF’s commitment to reward merit performance and enhance the status of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations and will be in effect in the upcoming edition that will kick-off at Olembe Stadium, Yaoundé on 09 January 2022”.
According to the new Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations Prize Monies, the Winner will take USD 5 million an increase of USD 500 000, the runner-up will bag USD 2.75 million, an increase of USD 250 000, the semi-Finalists will also take USD 2.2 million, an increase of USD 200 000 while the quarter-finalists will bag USD 1.175 million an increase of USD 175 000.
Algeria is Afcon’s defending champions having defeated Senegal in the final of the 2019 edition staged in Egypt.