2021 Africa Cup of Nations: The Complete Guide

There were many doubts as to whether the Africa Cup would be held or not, between the Omicron variant and the concerns of the European clubs who did not want to lose their most important players.

In the end, the event, already canceled last year due to the pandemic, will take place regularly as forecast from January 9 to February 6, 2022, and the matches will be played in Cameroon. In this guide, we will see everything there is to know about the African Cup: the calendar, the groups, the statistics, and other useful information.

The Africa Cup: the favorite teams to win the final

With a streak of 39 games without defeat, the reigning champions of Algeria are running as favorites in this edition. Led by Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez, the desert foxes can also count on the best player of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Milan midfielder Ismaël Bennacer. There is a great balance between the national teams ready to compete for the title and the actual champions.

Among these are Egypt and Senegal, captained respectively by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané of Liverpool, who will have to do without the two stars in the Premier League.

The Ivory Coast of Kessie can also count on the Ajax striker, Sébastien Haller. Even with the absence of Victor Osimhen, Nigeria is still one of the strongest African teams.

A step lower, we find the Ghana of the fearsome Ayew brothers, Cameroon with two old foxes like Choupo-Moting and Toko Ekambi, but also Zambo Anguissa of Napoli among the many players who play in Europe.

Morocco has Hakimi of Paris Saint-Germain but cannot rely on Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech because the national team group dislikes him.

The rules and structure of the Africa Cup of Nations

The CAF Africa Cup of Nations, officially CAN, also referred to as AFCON, or Total Africa Cup of Nations after its headline sponsor, is the main international men’s association football competition in Africa. It is sanctioned by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and was first held in 1957. Since 1968, it has been held every two years, switching to odd-numbered years in 2013.

The first edition of this international competition was held in Sudan. The number of registered teams has increased over the years. In fact, an elimination phase has also been added, from which a total of 24 teams have qualified to play in the final tournament, including Cameroon, who qualified automatically as hosts.

Each group is made up of four national teams each. The first two national teams in each group will go to the round of 16, with them also being the four best third-placed ones. Let’s see the order of the criteria to establish which team will pass the round in the event of one or more teams reaching equal points:

  1. Head to head: higher number of points
  2. Head to head: best goal difference
  3. Head-to-head matches: higher number of goals scored
  4. Group: Best goal difference
  5. Group: Highest number of goals scored
  6. Draw carried out by the CAF Committee


National teams from the same group cannot compete in the round of 16. Starting from the knockout phase up to the final, in the event of a tie, it will first go to extra time and then to penalties (obviously if the score remains tied). As for the final for the 3-4 places, there will be no extra time and it will go directly to penalties.



  • 09/01/2022   17:00 Cameroon-Burkina Faso
  • 09/01/2022   20:00 Ethiopia-Cape Verde
  • 01/13/2022 17:00 Cameroon-Ethiopia
  • 13/01/2022 20:00 Cape Verde-Burkina Faso
  • 17/01/2022 17:00 Cape Verde-Cameroon
  • 17/01/2022 17:00 Burkina Faso-Ethiopia


  • 10/01/2022 14:00 Senegal-Zimbabwe
  • 10/01/2022 17:00 Guinea-Malawi
  • 14/01/2022 14:00 Senegal-Guinea
  • 01/14/2022 17:00 Malawi – Zimbabwe
  • 18/01/2022 17:00 Malawi – Senegal
  • 18/01/2022 17:00 Zimbabwe- Guinea


  • 10/01/2022 17:00 Morocco-Ghana
  • 10/01/2022 20:00 Comoros-Gabon
  • 14/01/2022 17:00 Morocco-Comoros
  • 14/01/2022 20:00 Gabon-Ghana
  • 18/01/2022 20:00 Gabon-Morocco
  • 18/01/2022 20:00 Ghana-Comoros


  • 11/01/2022 17:00 Nigeria-Egypt
  • 11/01/2022 20:00 Sudan-Guinea-Bissau
  • 01/15/2022 17:00 Nigeria-Sudan
  • 15/01/2022 20:00 Guinea-Bissau-Egypt
  • 19/01/2022 20:00 Guinea-Bissau-Nigeria
  • 19/01/2022 20:00 Egypt-Sudan


  • 11/01/2022 14:00 Algeria-Sierra Leone
  • 12/01/2022 20:00 Equatorial Guinea-Ivory Coast
  • 16/01/2022 17:00 Ivory Coast-Sierra Leone
  • 16/01/2022: H20: 00 Algeria-Equatorial Guinea
  • 20/01/2022 17:00 Ivory Coast-Algeria
  • 20/01/2022 17:00 Sierra Leone-Equatorial Guinea


  • 12/01/2022 14:00 Tunisia-Mali
  • 12/01/2022 20:00 Mauritania-Gambia
  • 16/01/2022 14:00 Gambia-Mali
  • 16/01/2022 17:00 Tunisia-Mauritania
  • 20/01/2022 20:00 Gambia-Tunisia
  • 20/01/2022 20:00 Mali-Mauritania


  • 23/01/2022 17:00 Second group A vs Second group C.
  • 23/01/2022 20:00 First group D vs Third group B / E / F
  • 24/01/2022 17:00 Second group B vs Second group F.
  • 24/01/2022 20:00 First group A vs Third group C / D / E
  • 25/01/2022 17:00 First group B vs Third group A / C / D
  • 25/01/2022 20:00 First group C vs Third group B / D / F
  • 26/01/2022 17:00 First group E vs Second group D
  • 26/01/2022 20:00 First group F vs Second group E


  • 29/01/2022 17:00 to be determined
  • 29/01/2022 20:00 to be determined
  • 30/01/2022 17:00 to be determined
  • 30/01/2022 20:00 to be determined


  • 02/02/2022 20:00 to be determined
  • 03/02/2022 20:00 to be determined

FINAL 3rd – 4th PLACE

06/02/2022 17:00 to be determined

FINAL 1st – 2nd PLACE

06/02/2022 20:00 to be determined

Everything you need to know about groups and players to follow

Group A

  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ethiopia

Cameroon is the Group A favorite to win.

Few doubt that Cameroon will be the first team in Group A, with Zambo Anguissa, one of the players from the highest and most unexpected performance at Napoli in Serie A, in midfield. Up front are two old foxes like Bayern Munich’s Choupo Moting and Lyon’s Toko Ekambi.

The bomber of the indomitable lions is Bahoken, who plays for Angers in Ligue 1. The goalkeeper is André Onana of Ajax, a likely substitute in the winter transfer market session of Handanovic at Inter.

Cape Verde and Burkina Faso for second place, with Ethiopia out of the game.

As for the second place, it will be a race for two: Cape Verde and Burkina Faso will compete for the second pass for the round of 16. The most relevant player for the Tubarões azuis (Blue Sharks) is Ryan Mendes, who plays in the Arab league with Al-Nasr and has a wealth of experience in various European leagues with as many as 326 appearances.

Issa Kaboré, Troyes right-back, is the most representative player of Burkina Faso, which also has other players who play in Europe. Ethiopia has no players playing in the European leagues. On paper, it should be at the bottom of this group.


 Group B

  • Senegal
  • Guinea
  • Zimbabwe
  • Malawi

Senegal favored for first place.

As for Group A, Senegal, like Cameroon, is also the favorite to win this group. Many players who play in the main European leagues are part of the Teranga Lions. In defense, the key man is Kalidou Koulibaly, who begins the competition injured and hopes to recover in time for the start.

Among the players we find the champion of Europe with the Blues, Edouard Mendy. Obviously, the star of this national team will be Sadio Mané of Liverpool.

Naby Keita’s Guinea for second place, with few chances for Zimbabwe and Malawi

With one of the strongest midfields in this edition, Guinea shouldn’t have too many worries about going through as group runners up.

Liverpool’s Naby Keita and Roma’s Amadou Diawara will be tasked with bringing their national teams to the last 16. Watch out for Zimbabwe, which has Lyon’s most representative player, Tino Kadewere.

In the ranks of Malawi, we do not believe that the presence of Gabadinho Mhango, a player for the Orlando Pirates, will be enough to snatch a pass for the round of 16.

Group C

  • Ghana
  • Morocco
  • Gabon
  • Comoros

Ghana and Morocco are tied for first place.

One of the most balanced groups of this edition, the Black Stars, are slightly ahead of Hakimi’s Morocco. In Ghana we find Thomas Partey, who plays for Arsenal in the Premier League.

Jordan and Andrew Ayew are still in the team, Andrew is the captain, and when they play for the national team, they are always tough opponents to face. Watch out for Ajax’s young talent, 21-year-old Mohammed Kudus, who could do very well in this competition.

The Lions of the Atlas start as slight underdogs due to the fact that they will not be able to count on one of their key players, Hakim Ziyech. The Chelsea attacking midfielder has not been called up, but Munir of Sevilla will be there in the attack.

Gabon is a candidate as a surprise in the group, with the Comoros as a sacrificial victim.

Keep an eye on not only Ghana and Morocco in this iron group, but also Pierre Aubameyang’s Gabon. The Arsenal striker will want to show off, even if that means tripping one of the two favorite national teams.

The Gunners’ star is also the captain of his national team. There is no doubt about the role of sacrificial victim for the Comoros, but never say never.

Group D

  • Nigeria
  • Egypt
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Sudan

Nigeria or Egypt for the first place in the group.

As for Group C, this group also sees two of the favorites to win the final. Nigeria will have to play without Victor Osimhen, but there are many other interesting players who play above all in the Premier League, such as Iheanacho and Ndidi of Leicester and Iwobi of Everton. In defense are Ola Aina of Torino, the charismatic leader of this national team, and Ahmed Musa, who now plays for Fatih Karagümrük in Turkey.

For Egypt, it is not just Mohamed Salah; Arsenal’s El Neny and Trezeguet will also support the star of the Reds. The Super Eagles should not miss the round of 16, as they should be first or second in their group.

Guinea Bissau, a possible outsider, and Sudan, the group’s sparring partner

Guinea Bissau is a tough team to face, Mamé Baldé of Troyes is in attack, but Alexandre Mendy of Caen could also be decisive in the goal area. In midfield, followed by the promising Moreto Cassamá of Stade Reims.

The chances of qualification for Sudan, the sparring partner of this group, have been reduced to a flicker.



Group E

  • Algeria
  • Ivory Coast
  • Sierra Leone
  • Equatorial Guinea

Algeria and Ivory Coast are favored for passage to the second round.

Yet another group with two big teams that will compete for first place. Algeria, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations champion, possesses all of the necessary characteristics to repeat its success.

In addition to the aforementioned Mahrez and Bennacer, there are 17 players in the squad who play in the European championships. Napoli’s Ounas, veteran Yacine Brahimi, who plays for Al-Rayyan, Galatasaray’s Sofiane Feghouli, and Islam Slimani of Lyon, are among the many.

The Ivory Coast have nothing to envy of the Desert Foxes, who boast international players such as Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe, Milan’s Franck Kessie, Manchester United’s Eric Bailly, Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, and Ajax’s Sebastian Haller. Jeremie Boga, who recently moved from Sassuolo to Atalanta, has also been called up.

Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea shouldn’t cause problems.

There are no threats from the other two teams that make up this group E. In Sierra Leone, to be followed with interest is 20-year-old Yayah Kallon, too young to worry about Algeria and Ivory Coast.

In the squad of Equatorial Guinea, we find Pedro Obiang of Sassuolo. Even in this case, it should not be enough to get a pass to the next round.

Group F

  • Tunisia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Gambia

The strength of Mali or Tunisia’s experience in Group F.

In Group F, the two teams that should contend for primacy will be Mali and Tunisia. We see a slight favorite, the first team that has a large number of European players on their team. Mohamed Camara of Salzburg, Bissouma of Brighton, Amadou Haidara of Leipzig, and Samassékou of Hoffenheim are just some of the excellent players in the squad.

Tunisia should never be underestimated, even if it is not mentioned among the favorites and it is not among the strongest teams in this edition. To be followed with interest is 18-year-old Hannibal Mejbri, a Manchester United playmaker. Naïm Sliti is the most representative player and midfielder of Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia.

As a possible outsider, Gambia is more likely than Mauritania.

The Gambia of Musa Barrow, Bologna’s forward, is interesting. They could be the one to undermine Tunisia for a second ticket in the round of 16. In the ranks of the scorpions, there is also a young promise from the midfield of Roma, Ebrima Darboe, just 18 years old.

Mauritania, except for surprises, shouldn’t create too many headaches for qualifying for the next stage.

Statistics and records from the Africa Cup of Nations

The winning teams from the previous editions:

  1. 2019: Algeria
  2. 2017: Cameroon
  3. 2015: Ivory Coast
  4. 2013: Nigeria
  5. 2012: Zambia
  6. 2010: Egypt
  7. 2008: Egypt
  8. 2006: Egypt
  9. 2004: Tunisia
  10. 2002: Cameroon
  11. 2000: Cameroon
  12. 1998: Egypt
  13. 1996: South Africa
  14. 1994: Nigeria
  15. 1992: Ivory Coast
  16. 1990: Algeria
  17. 1988: Cameroon
  18. 1986: Egypt
  19. 1984: Cameroon
  20. 1982: Ghana
  21. 1980: Nigeria
  22. 1978: Ghana
  23. 1976: Morocco
  24. 1974: Zaire
  25. 1974: Democratic Republic of the Congo
  26. 1972: People’s Republic of the Congo
  27. 1970: Sudan
  28. 1968: Congo-Kinshasa
  29. 1965: Ghana
  30. 1963: Ghana
  31. 1962: Ethiopia
  32. 1959: United Arab Emirates
  33. 1957: Egypt



The teams that have won the African Cup on multiple occasions

  • Egypt: 7 wins.
  • Cameroon: 5 wins.
  • Ghana: 4 wins.
  • Nigeria: 3 wins.

Overall top goalscorers

  • Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) 18 goals
  • Laurent Pokou (Ivory Coast) 14 goals
  • Rashidi Yekini (Nigeria) 13 goals
  • Hassan El-Shazly (Egypt) 12 goals
  • Patrick Mboma (Cameroon), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast), Hossam Hassan (Egypt) 11 goals

Africa Cup: The best players of the previous editions

  1. 2019: Ismaël Bennacer (Algeria)
  2. 2017: Christian Bassogog (Cameroon)
  3. 2015: Christian Atsu (Ghana)
  4. 2013: Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso)
  5. 2012: Christopher Katongo (Zambia)
  6. 2010: Ahmed Hassan (Egypt)
  7. 2008: Hosny Abd Rabo (Egypt)
  8. 2006: Ahmed Hassan (Egypt)