AFCON Africa Cup of Nations: Results and Fixtures list
The full programme of all the matches for the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations, which takes place in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February 2022. Plus all the scores. Updated daily.
By Taimour Lay
Cameroon has not hosted the Africa Cup of Nations since the 1972. Optimists hope the goodwill generated by the tournament can be used to foster national unity, with the south west of the country still mired in violence.
After 40 years in power, President Biya is famously not a man fond of public appearances.
But Sunday’s opening ceremony of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations was taken as an opportunity to be centre-stage – at least briefly. The 88-year-old entered the new stadium that bears his name in a motorcade that lapped the athletics track as he and the first lady, Chantal, waved through the open roof. His speech, when it came, was only a few sentences, a formal declaration of the tournament’s start.
Biya had more to say in his New Year address to the nation 10 days ago, pitching the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon or CAF) as part of a grand plan for infrastructure development, before calling “on our Beloved Indomitable Lions to do their utmost to ensure that they end this festival in grand style on the evening of 6 February 2022”.
The optimism was, however, to be contrasted with the heart of the speech focusing on national disunity. “Many of our compatriots remain within the ranks of armed groups”, he warned. “They continue to engage in criminal activities, increasing attacks with improvised explosive devices and murders of unarmed civilians. The recent assassination of three students and a teacher of Bilingual High School Ekondo Titi added to their long list of abuses and atrocities.”
That attack in the Southwest region in November 2021 served as an inconvenient reminder that the five-year “Anglophone crisis” continues without resolution. If hasn’t been enough to undermine Cameroon’s hosting status this time round, memories are still fresh from enduring the humiliation of CAF’s decision in 2018 to strip Yaounde of the tournament and hand duties to Egypt for the summer 2019 edition. Delayed preparations and the “Ambazonia” crisis played a central role.
This year politics has not altered the itinerary – with Group F’s Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia still set to train in the restive south-west regional capital Buea and eight matches to be played in coastal Limbé, where there were reports of an explosion as recently as 5 January and the security presence is heavy. The government will be hoping that a tournament without major incident will buttress the official position that the worst has passed.
If Cameroon make the final at the Paul Biya Stadium on the outskirts of Yaoundé, critics of the $300m facility will still be entitled to rail against the total costs of the tournament. Around $700m has been sunk into stadia and roads but home success at Afcons tends to drown out opposition.
READ MORE (dossier) Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Cameroon:
There will have been relief that the Lions recovered from 1-0 down to Burkina Faso on Sunday, taking advantage of two rashly conceded penalties to squeeze home 2-1.
After all, Cameroon has not hosted the tournament since 1972 (when it featured just eight teams in two groups) and have a formidable home record in competitive matches. The recent defeat of Cote d’Ivoire in the battle for World Cup qualification raised expectation further.
In 2017, a young, largely unfancied Lions side beat Senegal, Ghana and, finally, Egypt to lift the country’s 5th Afcon title in dramatic fashion. Aboubakar’s late win in Libreville sealed a tournament that entertained without ever quite hitting great heights. It had political resonance too.
In the week after that win, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa expressed solidarity on television with the country’s English-speaking minority. “My brothers, I am from Bamenda. For you, for you,” he said, a Francophone star dedicating the victory to the north-western anglophone city at a time of ongoing repression.
On the downside, the team hasn’t progressed significantly since that title win and exited at the last 16 stage in Egypt the last time out. Defending champions Algeria and an exciting Senegal side are a rank above on current form.
The greatest threat to the tournament may yet come from Covid-19. CAF, having vigorously resisted calls for postponement, now has to cope with public health concerns, a complex testing regime and, inevitably, missing players.
It may be that things settle down once squads have fully entered the country and remain in their bubbles. But already Senegal has been badly affected, with nine players testing positive – including Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly – just days before their opening game against Zimbabwe on Monday. Gabon, Malawi, Ivory Coast and Tunisia also had preparations disrupted by new cases.
With only 2.5% of the population double-vaccinated, the tournament requirement for fans to prove their status to gain entry to stadiums is being watched closely. According to CAF, “supporters may only enter stadiums if they are fully vaccinated and are able to show a negative PCR test result that is no older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test result no older than 24 hours.” Cameroon’s matches are already restricted to 80% capacity to ease social distancing while all other fixtures are capped at 60%.
Biya’s name may be on the stadium but the popular figurehead for this Afcon will undoubtedly be the new President of the Cameroon football federation, Samuel Eto’o.
The four-time African Footballer of the Year and two-time Afcon winner has staked his reputation on a smooth tournament and a new era for the troubled domestic game. He was at the forefront of resistance to calls for delay at the end of last year and issued a warning to voices from Europe seeking to undermine Afcon’s credibility.
“The federation that I represent will strongly defend the competition,” he said. “The Euros were played in the middle of the pandemic with full stadiums. Why shouldn’t we play?” For all the politics and problems, there is once again no compelling riposte to that question.
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Here are six particularly promising players to watch closely during the 2022 African Cup of Nations: André Onana (Cameroon), Sébastien Haller (Côte d'Ivoire), Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia), Bamba Dieng (Senegal), Saïd Benrahma (Algeria), Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco).
Claudio Ranieri, coach of the British club Watford, is still refusing to allow his Senegalese striker Ismaïla Sarr to play in the African Cup of Nations, which opens on 9 January in Cameroon. This attitude has been denounced by Aliou Cissé, the coach of the "Lions de la Teranga", but also by several high-profile African football players, including Samuel Eto'o.
As reports claiming that the AFCON will be postponed circulate, Samuel Eto'o has expressed his exasperation. The former international football star has just been elected head of the Cameroon Football Federation and says he will “devote all his energy to ensuring that this African Cup of Nations is held.”
Adama Traore of Mali, who now plays in Moldova, made his name during his long stay at TP Mazembe, from 2013 to 2018. The striker is also one of the big guns of his national team, which faces Mauritania on Sunday at the AFCON Africa Cup of Nations, held in Cameroon.
Cameroon's striker Vincent Aboubakar, who scored both goals in the opening match of the Africa Cup of Nations against Burkina Faso (2-1), does not have the same aura as his illustrious predecessors Milla, Omam-Biyik, Mboma or Eto'o.
The national outcry at Ghana’s poor start, amplified by the 1-1 draw with Gabon on Friday night, has become entangled with a sense that the Black Stars' most expensive player, Thomas Partey, is once again failing to make the expected impact.
Algeria will have to win against Côte d'Ivoire on Thursday in Douala if they want to extend their run in Cameroon, where they finished last in the group with just one point after two matches. If not, it will imitate the 1992 team, eliminated in the first round, two years after winning the CAN...
Who will finance the maintenance of the stadiums once Cameroon's African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is over? Headed by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the powerful secretary-general of the presidency, the task force in charge of organising the African Cup of Nations has sent Paul Biya to begin a project for the management of sports infrastructures once the competition is over.
With Ghana, Algeria and Nigeria all out of the tournament, and Senegal having stuttered unconvincingly in the group phase, Côte D’Ivoire seemed to be the most balanced of the bigger teams initially tipped to succeed. Much of that has to do with the midfield mix offered by Franck Kessie, Jean Michael Seri and – the least experienced of the trio – Ibrahim Sangaré.
The round of 16 of the 2021 African Cup of Nations saw the favourites Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire fail to qualify, while Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal all qualified with difficulty. Gambia and Equatorial Guinea, for their part, eliminated Guinea and Mali.
Brilliant and several times decisive since the beginning of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Burkina Faso goalkeeper Hervé Koffi will have a lot of work to do Wednesday evening against the Senegalese striker. And in particular Ismaïla Sarr, who scored when coming on as a substitute against Equatorial Guinea.
There is a risk of tonight’s semi-final shown between AFCON's two most successful teams degenerating into a stagnant midfield battle. If it does, much will depend on whether Mohamed Elneny or Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa gains the upper hand.
The Gambia participated in the first finals of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in their history, reaching the quarterfinals. They were beaten but with not without a fight, by Cameroon (0-2). Tom Saintfiet, the Belgian coach of the Scorpions, spoke about their surprising journey and the experience of the Gambian team in the country of the Indomitable Lions.
On Sunday night, Senegal became African champions for the first time in their history after they defeated Egypt (0-0, 4-2 on aggregate). Sadio Mané, who was voted best player of the AFCON, played a key role. The striker of the Lions of Teranga lived up to his potential in Cameroon.
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