Tournament Guide for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – Teams, Players, Stadiums, and More
Following much deliberation, AFCON 2021 will now be played in 2022.
The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations was originally supposed to take place in Cameroon between January 9 and February 6, 2021. However, CAF – the Confederation of African Football – pushed the tournament back 12 months due to the pandemic.
Now, that may seem like a long time to wait. But with so much already known about AFCON 2021, it makes sense to look ahead to the tournament, right?
In this post, I tell you everything you need to know about AFCON 2021. I cover the teams that have already qualified, look at the stadiums, discuss star players to watch, and more.
About the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
- AFCON 2021 is the 33rd edition of the tournament
- Despite the name, AFCON 2021 will take place in January and February 2022
- The host nation is Cameroon
- A total of 24 teams will be taking part, split into six groups of four
- Six stadiums will be used across five host cities
- Algeria heads into the tournament as the defending champion
The Africa Cup of Nations has been running for over 60 years, with Egypt winning the inaugural tournament back in 1957
The Pharaohs have since clinched more AFCON triumphs than any other team (7), although Cameroon (5), Ghana (4), and Nigeria (3) are nearly always among the bookmakers’ favorites.
Algeria claimed their second AFCON title in 2019, beating Senegal 1-0 in the final. It’s fair to say that the Desert Foxes were surprise winners, yet they will be confident of defending their crown.
After hosting AFCON 1972, Cameroon welcomes the tournament back for the second time. The Indomitable Lions last secured the trophy in 2017.
When Will the AFCON 2021 Odds Be Available?
As things stand, only five teams have officially qualified for the next Africa Cup of Nations. With 19 places still up for grabs, the bookies haven’t released their odds for AFCON 2021 just yet.
The first round of qualifying matches took place in November 2019, with the second round taking place a year later due to the pandemic. Each side will play their final two qualifiers in March 2021.
You can expect to find odds for AFCON 2021 when the qualification groups are complete. I recommend shopping around at the leading online betting sites and getting the best odds.
Following the opening round of fixtures, a number of nations have already been eliminated. Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo, and Eswatini haven’t accumulated enough points to remain in contention.
Big guns such as Ghana, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, and Ivory Coast are all on the verge of securing their spot in the tournament. However, they still need to pick up one or two more points.
Let’s take a closer look at the five nations that have already guaranteed themselves a place at AFCON 2021.
Which Nations Have Already Qualified for AFCON 2021?
Cameroon, Senegal, Algeria, Mali, and Tunisia will all be competing in the upcoming tournament. I assess each nation below.
Cameroon automatically booked their place in the tournament as the host nation, meaning the team didn’t have to play any qualification games. Still, the Indomitable Lions would have almost certainly cruised through the qualifying stage.
The five-time winners will make their 20th finals appearance when the tournament gets underway. Led by Portuguese head coach Toni Conceicao, Cameroon will surely be among the bookies’ favorites to go all the way.
Stars players include goalkeeper Andre Onana (Ajax), midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham), and forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich).
Having won each of their four qualifying games so far, Senegal has booked their spot at AFCON 2021 with two matches to spare. The Lions of Teranga have already done the double over Guinea-Bissau in Group I, as well as beating Congo and Eswatini.
Last year’s beaten finalists will no doubt be eager to go one better in the upcoming tournament – and I think you’d be foolish to bet against them.
We already know what Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is capable of, but with Edouard Mendy (Chelsea) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) in the backline, Senegal will be difficult to stop.
The reigning champions picked up where they left off in AFCON 2019 by winning their opening three qualifying games. Algeria thrashed Zambia 5-0 before seeing off Botswana and Zimbabwe to secure their place at AFCON 2021.
Granted, Group H is not the toughest qualifying group. But the Desert Foxes have made light work of their opponents. It will be difficult for Djamel Belmadi’s side to win consecutive AFCON titles, although it has been done before.
Mali failed to make it past the Round of 16 in the previous tournament, falling to Ivory Coast immediately after the group stage. But Mohamed Magassouba’s men can already start making plans for Cameroon.
The Eagles are unbeaten in Group A so far, picking up three wins and a draw. With Guinea, Namibia, and Chad all trailing behind, Mali can take their foot off the gas in their final two qualifying games.
The Eagles of Carthage made it all the way to the semi-finals at AFCON 2019, only to suffer an extra-time defeat to Senegal. Tunisia’s sole AFCON triumph came back in 2004, yet the team always seems to do well at the tournament.
Having taking ten points from a possible 12 in Group J, Mondher Kebaier’s side is already looking ahead to AFCON 2021. It is worth pointing out that Tunisia has only conceded two goals during qualifying.
AFCON 2021 Stadiums
- Paul Biya Stadium – Yaoundé (60,000)
- Japoma Stadium – Douala (50,000)
- Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo – Yaoundé (42,500)
- Roumde Adija Stadium – Garoua (30,000)
- Kouekong Stadium – Bafoussam (20,000)
- Limbe Stadium – Limbe (20,000)
Six different stadiums will host games at AFCON 2021, across five cities in Cameroon – Yaoundé, Douala, Garoua, Bafoussam, and Limbe.
The new Paul Biya Stadium – built in 2018 – is one of two venues in the capital city of Yaoundé. As the biggest stadium, it will host the opening ceremony, as well as the final.
Cameroon last hosted the Africa Cup of Nations all the way back in 1972. The final was held at Stade Omnisports on that occasion, but Paul Biya Stadium will be able to seat 20,000 more spectators.
Players to Watch at AFCON 2021
With five countries already qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup on Nations, I have chosen to feature one player from each team that looks set to have a bit impact in Cameroon.
Andre Onana – Cameroon
Over the past couple of years, Andre Onana has established himself as one of the world’s most exciting young goalkeepers. Still only 24, the confident shot-stopper has already made almost 200 first-team appearances for Dutch giant Ajax.
I’m expecting Onana to play a starring role for Cameroon on home soil.
Ismaila Sarr – Senegal
It is no secret that Sadio Mane is the star of the show for Senegal, but I believe Ismaila Sarr is destined to have a big say in the outcome of AFCON 2021.
The speedy winger will only be 23 by the time the next tournament comes around. He has attracted attention from some of Europe’s club sides following his move from Rennes to Watford in 2019 – and he is only going to get better.
Said Benrahma – Algeria
Of course, Riyad Mahrez is probably the first Algerian player that springs to mind. The Desert Foxes’ captain is widely regarded as one of the EPL’s best forwards. But I’m really looking forward to watching Said Benrahma in Cameroon.
The skillful forward recently earned himself a move to the Premier League, joining West Ham. With Mahrez on one side and Benrahma on the other, Algeria will be a major threat at AFCON 2021.
Amadou Haidara – Mali
Best known for his relentless work-rate and fearless approach, Amadou Haidara has become a key player for German side RB Leipzig. The midfielder may only be 22, but he is already one of the first names on Julian Nagelsmann’s team sheet.
Haidara already has 17 international caps under his belt, scoring twice. I can see the Leipzig star lighting up AFCON 2021.
Wahbi Khazri – Tunisia
With 19 goals in 57 appearances for his national side, there is no denying that Wahbi Khazri is Tunisia’s main man.
As well as featuring at four different Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, the Saint-Etienne forward notched up two goals and two assists in just three appearances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations may seem like a long time from now, but with the final round of qualifiers taking place in March, we will soon know which teams will be competing at the upcoming tournament.
Reigning champion Algeria will be hoping to defend their title, while star-studded Senegal will also be among the frontrunners. But with nations like Ivory Coast and Egypt yet to book their spot at AFCON 2021, the bookies’ list of favorites is bound to change in the coming months.
As I mentioned, the AFCON 2021 odds will likely be released in March, so make sure you keep checking the best online sportsbooks nearer the time.
In the meantime, why not check out some of our other Africa Cup of Nations content?