Shining the spotlight on the African Cup of Nations

One of the biggest international tournaments in the world kicks off today! The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) has been a showcase of African soccer since its inception in 1957. Some of the best players in the world come to represent their nations and have the chance to be champions of Africa. This 2022 tournament was postponed from 2021 but will go on now. It’s important to shine the spotlight on AFCON as it often gets overlooked, but this tournament shouldn’t be at all!

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2022 African Cup of Nations

In the early iterations of this tournament people from around the world were able to see what Africa had to offer the game of soccer. In the 1960s European scouts were sent there to find players for the big club teams in the world. This still happens today; if an otherwise “unknown” player balls out in this tournament, you can bet there will be big clubs from around the world inquiring about their services after AFCON.

The 2022 version of the tournament is hosted in Cameroon and will showcase some of the world’s best talent. There are 36 players coming to represent their country’s who play for England’s Premier League clubs. The talent is through the roof, and should make for a very entertaining month!

24 nations will compete in a group stage where the top two teams from each group and the four best third-place teams make it to the knockout rounds. The final-16 will then duke it out in single-elimination games to determine who will be champions of Africa. Here’s a look at the nations competing in the 2022 AFCON!

Group A

Group A houses the hosts of this tournament: Cameroon; as well as, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, and Ethiopia. Cameroon is a five-time champion of AFCON and will be chomping at the bit to keep that form in their home nation. Burkina Faso is a rising nation, star Bertrand Traore who plays for Aston Villa in the Premier League hopes to carry his nation to the knockout rounds. Cape Verde is ranked 73rd in the world, can Philadelphia Union star Jamiro Monteiro help them make a shocking run to the knockout rounds? Ethiopia has won the competition one time but is currently ranked 137th in the world; that makes them the second-worst ranking nation at AFCON 2022. Here’s a look at Group A’s matches:

Sunday, January 9

Cameroon vs Burkina Faso, 11 am ET
Ethiopia vs Cape Verde, 3 pm ET

Thursday, January 13

Cameroon vs Ethiopia, 11 am ET
Cape Verde vs Burkina Faso, 2 pm ET

Monday, January 17

Cape Verde vs Cameroon, 11 am ET
Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia, 11 am ET

The matches will be intense for sure as the home-field advantage for Cameroon will be prevalent. Can other nations step up and secure their path out of Group A?

Group B

Group B has Guinea, Malawi, Senegal, and Zimbabwe. Guinea has played in 43 AFCON matches and only won 12, can Premier League players Julian Jeanvier and Naby Keita lead them to more victories in 2022? Malawi is ranked 129th in the world, that’s the fourth-worst ranking at this tournament; can they pull off a shack and make it out of the group? Senegal is the favorite to win this tournament, and are the runaway favorites in Group B; They should win this group with ease with their Premier League stars leading the way. Zimbabwe is an underdog, but could be able to get out of this group if they pull off an upset or two; can their star Marvelous Nakamba help them do just that? Here are the matchups in Group B:

Monday, January 10

Senegal vs Zimbabwe, 8 am ET
Guinea vs Malawi, 11 am ET

Friday, January 14

Senegal vs Guinea, 8 am ET
Malawi vs Zimbabwe, 11 am ET

Tuesday, January 18

Malawi vs Senegal, 11 am ET
Zimbabwe vs Guinea, 11 am ET

With one clear favorite in Group B in Senegal, the rest of the group will be duking it out for that second spot to make the knockout rounds. Who will it be? We’ll have to wait and see!

Group C

Comoros, Gabon, Ghana, and Morocco make up Group C. Comoros is a true underdog as one of the bottom five ranked nations in this tournament, could they make an improbable run in Group C. Gabon is a nation in the middle of the pack of the 24 teams at the 2022 AFCON; can star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lead them to the knockout rounds? Ghana has won the second-most AFCONs and is a perennial powerhouse in Africa, they should be able to challenge for the top spot in the group. Morocco may not be a nation you’d think is a top African nation, but they are the second-highest ranked team at this tournament; could they win their second-ever AFCON in 2022? Here’s a look at the Group C games:

Monday, January 10

Morocco vs Ghana, 11 am ET
Comoros vs Gabon, 2 pm ET

Friday, January 14

Morocco vs Comoros, 11 am ET
Gabon vs Ghana, 2 pm ET

Tuesday, January 18

Gabon vs Morocco, 2 pm ET
Ghana vs Comoros, 2 pm ET

Group C has two of the better teams in the tournament, will an underdog be able to knock them off, and bar them from the knockout rounds?

Group D

Two powerhouses, Egypt and Nigeria play in group D, so do Guinea-Bissau and Sudan. Eygpt is probably best known for being the nation that has Premier League Star Mo Salah; however, they are a powerhouse that has won the most AFCONs ever with seven, can they win another in 2022? The other powerhouse in Group D is Nigeria, their three AFCON wins, and top-five ranking at this tourny make them a true contender to win the group. Guinea-Bissau is also in Group D, this small nation is in the middle of the pack of the rankings; could they pull off any upsets? Sudan is the final nation in Group D, they are one of the five-worst ranked teams, but will be playing with pride at AFCON 2022. The Group D matchup look like this:

Tuesday, January 11

Nigeria vs Egypt, 11 am ET
Sudan vs Guinea-Bissau, 2 pm ET

Saturday, January 15

Nigeria vs Sudan, 11 am ET
Guinea-Bissau vs Egypt, 2 pm ET

Wednesday, January 19

Egypt vs Sudan, 2 pm ET
Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria, 2 pm ET

The top two in Group D should be Egypt and Nigeria, but it wouldn’t be an international tournament without some cinderella stories. Could one come from this group?

Group E

Group E, has Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Algeria is the defending AFCON champions and should be the runaway favorites in Group A; they look to defend that title against nations ready to knock them off their perch. Equatorial Guinea is another nation looking to punch above its weight in a tough group; a few upset results could help them do just that at AFCON 2022. Ivory Coast used to be a powerhouse, but seems to be on the decline in recent years; can they show that is not the case by winning Group E; they have seven Premier League players on their roster that hope to show that! Sierra Leone is another underdog that could make a splash by getting results that they aren’t favored to get, can MLS legend Kei Kamara lead them to knockout rounds? Here are the Group E matches:

Tuesday, January 11

Algeria vs Sierra Leone, 8 am ET

Wednesday, January 12

Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast, 2 pm ET

Sunday, January 16

Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone, 11 am ET
Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea, 2 pm ET

Thursday, January 20

Ivory Coast vs Algeria, 11 am ET
Sierra Leone vs Equatorial Guinea, 11 am ET

With two strong and two weaker sides, this group has the potential to show if the top teams can be just that, or if the weaker ones can rise up in Group E.

Group F

The final group, Group E, has Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, and Tunisia! Gambia is the worst-ranked side at AFCON 2022, they are ranked 150th in the world, can they do anything to rise above that and get out of Group F? Mali may surprise some people at this tournament, they are a top-10 ranked African country that is hungry to show that they belong in that place! Mauritania is ranked 15-out-of-24 at the AFCON; in a group with two teams ranked ahead of them, will they be able to get to the knockouts? Tunisia is a top-five African side; they’ll see themselves ad the Group F favorites, but can their play on the pitch show that too? Here’s a look at their matches:

Wednesday, January 12

Tunisia vs Mali, 8 am ET
Mauritania vs Gambia, 11 am ET

Sunday, January 16

Gambia vs Mali, 8 am ET
Tunisia vs Mauritania, 11 am ET

Thursday, January 20

Gambia vs Tunisia, 2 pm ET
Mali vs Mauritania, 2 pm ET

Group F will be the final group to finish up play before the knockout rounds. Will the top two teams on paper make it, and is there room for the other two to get a top-four third-place spot?

The Action Kicks off today!

The 2022 AFCON, which is still being labeled AFCON 2021, kicks off today as the teams in Group A play! Host’s Cameroon will hope for a party of a start. Who will make it to the knockout rounds? Follow along with us to find out, here’s when the knockout games will be played!

Sunday, January 23 to Wednesday, January 26 — Round of 16

Saturday, January 29 to Sunday, January 30 — Quarterfinals

Wednesday, February 2 & Thursday, February 3— Semifinals

Sunday, February 6 — Third-place game and Final

The only way to watch these matches in the United States is if you have access to BeIn Sports. It’s unfortunate that this tournament is not more widely available here, but that may come with time. Still, don’t miss out on the action and we’ll be giving updates through articles after each round of the group stage and knockout rounds!

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