It is the biggest question on everybody’s minds right now with the AFCON 2021 just a matter of days to kick-off and the countries all getting set to jet into Cameroun for the tournament which had to wait an extra year owing to the global lockdown, no thanks to COVID-19. For the love of football in Africa, the worst seems to be over.
From the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde with the highest capacity of 60,000 seats to the smallest capacity of 20,000 seats at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium but with the side attraction of being one of the few stadiums in the world built on a hill with a stunning view of the sea, the world’s attention, for one month, will be on the Republic of Cameroun, a country lying at the junction of Western and Central Africa as the best players from the “mother of mankind” continent battle and jostle for pride and country in the race to become kings of Africa.
When you consider the fact that just a few years ago, Zambia caused the biggest upset in African football by winning the 2012 AFCON, then it could be argued that all 24 countries have got a chance at achieving something special at the TotalEnergies 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.
If the current FIFA rankings for Africa is however anything to go by, one could be tempted to say it will be a straight battle between North Africa and West Africa as countries from the two regions occupy 9 spots out of the top 10 ranked countries with the host, Cameroun the only Central African country breaking the hegemony.
The usual suspects and powerhouse in Africa; Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun and Mali are all ranked in the top 10.
A total of 24 teams will compete in the final tournament. Only the hosts received an automatic qualification spot, with the other 23 teams qualifying through a qualification tournament. The teams in each group play a single round-robin. After the group stage, the top two teams from each group and the four highest-ranked third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.
The round of 16 winners will advance to the quarter-finals and the quarter-final winners will advance to the semi-finals. The semi-final losers will play in a third-place match, while the semi-final winners will contest the final.
Let us check the groups and make an attempt at predicting the favourites to qualify automatically for the Round of 16.
Cameroun, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde
Prediction: Cameroun and Burkina Faso to qualify.
Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Prediction: Senegal and Guinea to qualify.
Morocco, Ghana, Comoros and Gabon
Prediction: Morocco and Ghana to qualify.
Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau.
Prediction: Nigeria and Egypt to go through.
Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.
Prediction: Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire to qualify.
Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia
Prediction: Tunisia and Mali to qualify.
To make up the 16 teams needed to play in the 2nd Round, 4 best losers must emerge amongst the 3rd placed teams.
My picks for this position are Cape Verde, Zimbabwe, Gabon and Sierra Leone.
For the teams to be eliminated from the knockout stages, join me here in the next edition.
Best of luck to all 24 participating teams in the AFCON in Cameroun.
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