Team Focus

Team Focus: Cameroon – Host

This will be the second time the Cameroonians will be hosting the tournament as they have won it 5 times including in 2000 when they won on the Nigerian soil. The country can boast of legends like Rigobert Song, Patrick Mboma, Samuel Eto’o, Roger Miller, Omam Biyick and a host of others.

Key players

One player that will be posing a threat for the Cameroonians is Bayern Munich forward, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. He has not gotten enough playing time with the German champions due to being behind Lewandowski. He has just 3 goals for the Bavarians. For his country side, he has 15 goals in 57 appearances.

Another top player for Cameroon is Vincent Aboubakar. The former FC Porto man scored 37 goals for the Portuguese side before leaving for Besiktas where he scored 15 goals in 25 appearances. He is now with Saudi Arabian side, Al-Nassr. For country, He has made 63 appearances for his country and netted 20 times.

Karl Ekambi- The Cameroonian currently plies his trade with Ligue 1 side, Lyon where he is in a great form. In 14 appearances, he has a total of 8 goals and 4 assists. For country, 3 goals in 34 appearances.

Group opponents

The Indomitable lions are in the same group with Burkina Faso, Ethopia and Cape Verde. The host will be opening the tournament with 2013 finalists, Burkina Faso at the Olembé Stadium in Yaoundé. The 5 time champions have an upper hand in the clash as they have 15 wins and 15 draws in this meeting between the Burkina Faso.

In June, they defeated the Super Eagles by a lone goal in a friendly match at Austria.

Tournament Record

The indomitable lions have a fine record at this completion as they have lifted it 5 times; just 2 behind Egypt. They were permanently awarded the trophy in 2000 after they claimed its third championship since 1978.

Legends:

Roger Miller– He made a total of 77 appearances for Cameroon and scored 43 goals. At Italy 1990, he scored a total of 4 goals and guided Cameroon to the Quarter finals. Roger Miller became one of the very first African footballers to receive the Oldest Goal scorer Award. At 42, the forward scored against Russia in US 1994 World Cup to become the oldest scorer in the history of the competition.

Omam Biyik– He was one of the most important players of the Cameroonian national team in the nineties, playing at the three World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998. Omam Biyik’s greatest moment came when he scored the downward header that gave Cameroon a historic 1–0 win over defending world champions Argentina in the San Siro in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup. Omam-Biyik scored a total of 26 goals in 73 appearances.

Rigobert Song: He was a member of the Cameroon national team between 1993 and 2010. Song holds the record of most consecutive games played in the African Nations Cup with 35 first-team games. He was part of the winning squad that won the Super Eagles on penalty shootout at the finals of Africa’s biggest tournament in 2000 at National Stadium Lagos.

He played for the likes of Liverpool & Galatasaray.

Samuel Eto’o- The Cameroonian was regarded as one of the best strikers in the world during his time. The former Barcelona and Chelsea man bagged a total of 4 African player of the year. (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010). He came close in winning the FIFA World Player of the Year as he came out third. He has lifted Africa’s biggest tournament twice (2000, 2002). He is Cameroon’s all-time leading scorer with 56 goals in 118 appearances.

Tournament Record

Following a successful FIFA World Cup debut in 2002, in which the side reached the quarter-finals, Senegal officially established itself as a new powerhouse in Africa. In spite of this improvement, however, Senegal is yet to win an AFCON title in its history. The best they have gotten close is a silver medal.


Team Focus: Nigeria

Tournament Record:

  • Appearances: 19
  • Gold: 3
  • Silver: 4
  • Bronze: 8

Key Players:

Joe Aribo: Currently attracting interest from top Premier League clubs, the Rangers man rate card is likely to skyrocket if he replicates his form at club level for country. Has scored many decisive goals for Rangers this season.

Samuel Chukwueze: Was sidelined due to injury for over 5 months but marked his return with a goal in the Champions League for Villarreal. The skillful winger has already 5 goals to his name this season since his return from injury.

Kelechi Iheanacho: In the absence of Victor Osimhen, the fans will be looking up to Iheanacho for goals and also creativity in the middle of the park. He is one of the players who will be making their debut at the AFCON after he was dropped by Gernot Rohr in the 2019 edition. Has a total of 10 goals for country.

Odion Ighalo: The 2019 AFCON golden boot winner is one player who can’t stop banging goals in far away, Saudi Arabia. Scores important goals for Al Shabab. Has a total of 12 goals in 16 appearances for club and made his return to the national team during the 1-1 draw with Cape Verde in Lagos. Due to his fine form, he has now attracted interest from Premier League side, Newcastle.


Team Focus: Senegal

Star Players to watch

Sadio Mane – Liverpool

The Senegalese attacker has now registered his name among the few Africans to reach the 100 goal mark in the Premier League after scoring in the 5-0 thumping of Troost-Ekong’s Watford.

Mendy – Chelsea: This is one player that should have been in the nominees of the 2020 Balon d’or. He has kept several clean sheets for his club side and was instrumental in Chelsea’s Champions league triumph last season against Manchester City. At international level, he has conceded just 3 times for Senegal.

Kalidou Koulibaly-Napoli: Kalidou Koulibaly is one player that has been in the list of several European clubs to snap up. He has made a total of 14 appearances for club side and 48 for country side. However, he saw a red card in Napoli’s last game.

Ismailia Sarr – Watford: A promising talent who has scored a total of 4 goals for his club side Watford and scored a total of 6 goals for Senegal in 36 appearances. He was instrumental in bringing Watford for to the Premier League from Championship.

Legends

El-Hadji Diouf: The Senegalese legend has played in several top European clubs such as Liverpool. He saw a total of 111 yellow cards at club level.

In his entire career, he scored a total of 72 goals, 66 assists in 508 appearances (Club level).

For country, he scored a total of 16 goals in 47 appearances. He won the African footballer of the year twice (2001, 2002) and also clinched the BBC footballer of the year in 2002. He led Senegal to second place of the showdown in Africa.

Late Papa Bouba Diop

Well known for his goal at the 2002 Korea/Japan world cup that sank the defending champions, France in their opening game of the competition. He netted a total of 11 times in 62 appearances for Senegal. He also guided Senegal to second place of the showdown in Africa in which they lost to Cameroon.


Team Focus: Ghana

Tournament Record:

The black stars have won the tournament a total of four times and runner-up for five times.

In the past, they have always been a threat to top countries like Nigeria, Cameroon and a host of African countries.

The last time they hosted the tournament was in 2008 in which Egypt emerged champions.

Key Players:

Jordan Ayew: Currently plays for Premier League side, Crystal palace. The Ghanaian had a great season last term but is yet to register a goal yet this season after 8 appearances. A total of 17 goals for black stars in 67 appearances. He is the son of legendary Ghanaian footballer, Abedi Pele. His elder brother, Andre plays in faraway Qatar.

Andre Ayew: The older brother of Jordan Ayew plays for Al Sadd in Qatar. He recently equaled his father Abedi Pele’s goal scoring record for Qatari giants, Al Sadd. It has taken Ayew just 3 months to equal a record that took his father one year during his illustrious career. Abedi Pele moved to Al Sadd in 1982 and by the time he was leaving the club in 1983, he had scored seven goals. But the son has equaled the number after just eight games in top flight.

Thomas Partey: The Ghanaian is beginning to find his bearing at the north London club after his first season at the club was below par coupled with injuries he sustained.

Partey’s stock has risen significantly since then, becoming arguably Atletico Madrid’s most important midfielder in 19/20.

He also scored his first goal at the club against Aston Villa and that made him the first Ghanaian to score for the club. He has been able to complete a total of 52% tackles this season.

However, it’s a different story on his country side as he has scored a total of 11 goals in 32 appearances for the Ghanaian national team since making his debut in June 2016.

Legends

Abedi Pele

The Ex black stars attacker played for several European clubs and found his fame in the French Ligue 1 with Lille and Marseille, the latter where he won the UEFA Champions League in 1993, among other titles. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation. He had a great career as he cooped several awards such as BBC African Footballer of the Year, African Footballer of the Year on three occasions, and a host of other awards.

Tony Yeboah: He is considered one of the most prominent and prolific goal scorers in Ghanaian and African football history and gained a reputation for scoring spectacular goals which often featured in Goal of the Month or Goal of the Season competitions, often celebrated by wagging his index finger towards the crowd. He also bagged several individual awards as: Bundesliga top scorer: 1992–93, 1993–94, Ghana Footballer of the Year: 1 , Leeds United Player of the Year: 1996, African Footballer of the Year: 1993 (1st Runnerup); 1992 (2nd Runnerup)

Nii Lamptey: He is known foremost for his erratic career, in which he became a superstar as a teenager and then suffered a long string of failures which burnt him out well before his time. One of his biggest achievements was winning the FIFA U-17 World Championship Golden Ball in 1991.

Samuel Kuffour

The Ghanaian is known for his great physical power, Samuel Osei Kuffour is best remembered for his time with European giants Bayern Munich, whom he represented for over a decade, winning a total of 14 honours including the UEFA Champions League, and playing in nearly 250 official matches. Kuffour appeared with the Ghanaian national team in the 2006 World Cup, as well as in five Africa Cup of Nations. In 2001, he was voted the BBC African Footballer of the Year.

Michael Essien

In 2005, Essien signed with Premier League side Chelsea for a £24.4 million transfer fee and, at the time of his signing, was the most expensive African footballer in history. At Chelsea, Essien helped the club win the Premier League in 2006 and 2010, as well as three FA Cups and one League Cup. He won the UEFA Champions League in 2012, while also placing as runner up in the 2008 UEFA Champions League. He has won the Chelsea Goal of the Season award twice, in the 2006–07 and 2008–09 seasons.

Asamoah Gyan

In 2010, Gyan joined Premier League club Sunderland, breaking the club’s transfer record and netting on ten occasions in thirty-four Premier League matches during two seasons.Gyan is the all-time leading goalscorer of the Ghana national team, with 51 goals. He represented Ghana at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. With 6 goals, he is the top African goalscorer in the history of the World Cup.

Gyan has also represented Ghana in seven Africa Cup of Nations helping them finish in third-place in 2008 and runner-up in 2010 and 2015.

Stephen Appiah

He captained Ghana at their World Cup debut in 2006 and at the 2010 World Cup. Appiah’s success at Parma alerted defending Serie A champions Juventus to his talents. Juventus paid Parma €2 million in the summer of 2003 to secure Appiah’s services on loan, with an option to a permanent €6 million transfer in 2004. During his time, he won Ghana Footballer of the Year twice (2005, 2007)


Team Focus: Algeria

– Key Players

Riyad Mahrez- Most Nigerians will remember Riyad Mahrez for his last minute Free kick which eliminated the Super Eagles from the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. The Manchester City Winger is one player that has been instrumental for both his country and club side. He has scored a total of 25 goals and made 34 assists in 68 appearances.

Sofiane Feghouli: He currently plays for Turkish side, Galatasaray and has been part of the Algerian team for the last 9 years; one of the oldest members of the team. The prolific attacking midfielder has provided a total of 15 assists for the Desert Foxes and netted 19 in 72 appearances. He is known for his dribbling skills.

Islam Slimani- The Lyon forward has now put his name in the history books after coming from the bench to score Algeria’s last goal against Djibouti in the 4-0 thumping on Friday night. The former Leicester City forwards is now Algeria’s all-time leading scorer with 38 goals surpassing legendary Abdelhafid Tasfout. He currently has a total of 38 goals, 21 assists in 78 appearances.

Yacine Brahimi- He plays as an attacking midfielder and a winger and is described as a “technically gifted. Brahimi is also known for his “Brahimi Moments”. Most notably he won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award in 2014, beating Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, Yaya Toure to the prize.

While at Granada in 2013/14, Brahimi finished the season as the top dribbler in La Liga. He was only one of two players to make over 100 successful dribbles, with Lionel Messi as the other, while Cristiano Ronaldo lagged some way behind. His main asset has always been his dribbling skills, and close control, working well in tight spaces. He has a total of 11 goals, 10 assists in 56 appearances.

Tournament Record: Algeria have been a trophy drought until 2019 when they won it for the first time after 29 years. They have a total of two AFCON trophies. First trophy in 1990 which they won on home soil after defeating the Super Eagles by 1-0 and second in 2019 in Egypt; defeating Senegal by 1-0.

  • Algeria
  • Sierra Leone
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Côte d’Ivoire

Team Focus: Cote d’Ivoire

Tournament Record

Cote d’Ivoire are the second team in Africa with the highest number of appearances (24) at Africa’s biggest tournament behind Egypt (25).

They have won it a total of two times (1992, 2015) and have been Runners-up on two occasions (2006, 2012).

Key players

Sébastien Haller: The 27 year old recently made his debut for the elephants and have also been in hot form for Dutch champions, Ajax. Previously, he’s been playing for the French U 21 and other French junior teams. He opted to play for Cote d’ivoire after not getting a callup to the French senior team. So far, he has a total of 3 goals in 6 appearances for the The Elephants. He can be regarded as one of the hottest strikers in Europe after scoring 14 goals in 14 appearances for Ajax this season (Champions League- 7 goals; Eredivisie- 7 goals)

Maxwell Cornet: Another player who have come through the ranks of the French team but was unable to make it into the senior team. The 25 year old has made a good start in the Premier league with Burnley as it paid off by being nominated for EPL October player of the year. The former Lyon man has 4 goals in 5 appearances for Burnley this season. For country, he has a total of 5 goals in 24 appearances.

Franck Kessie: One of the hottest defensive midfieders in Europe. He is highly wanted by top European clubs like Man U, PSG, Real Madrid. Not a usual goal scorer but his recovery rate and interceptions are top notch. He has 5 goals so far for the Elephants in 47 appearances.

Nicolas Pepe: Admittedly, Pepe hasn’t set the world alight since moving to Arsenal last summer, still, he remains a promising prospect and could blossom at next year’s finals.

He began the 2019 finals admirably against South Africa, notably hitting the woodwork with a free-kick, but faded as the competition progressed.

Indeed, the Elephants winger possesses the individual quality to take the month-long tournament by storm provided he finds the much-needed consistency.

Wilfried Zaha: One of the players who have been in the books of Premier league side, Arsenal but unfortunately, the Gunners went for his fellow country man, Pepe when they were unable to sign him.

Zaha have featured for the England national team under Roy Hodgson in 2012 (friendly matches) but was not used for a competitive game which makes him eligible to play for Cote d’Ivoire.

Legends

Didier Drogba: Not just regarded as Cote d’Ivoire legend but a Chelsea legend as his winning penalty kick earned Chelsea their first ever Champions league trophy in 2011/12. He scored a total of 65 goals for country in 105 appearances. He has bagged several individual awards which some include, African footballer of the year (2006,2009), BBC African footballer of the year, (2009) , CAF Team of the Year: (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012)

Kolo Touré: Currently the assistant manager of Leicester City, the Ivorian has been exceptional during his playing days as he bagged the AFCON with the elephants in 2015. Played in top European clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, the 40 year old was instrumental in guiding Cote d’Ivoire to their second ever AFCON in 2015.

Yaya Touré: The former Manchester City man is currently the assistant coach of Russian club Akhmat Grozny. During his playing days, he was regarded as one of the world’s best players in his position. One of the greatest African players of all time, Yaya was voted African Footballer of the Year for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was the African Footballer of the Year for a record of 4 times and also captained the Elephants when they lifted the trophy in 2015


Team Focus: Morocco

Key Players

Munir El Haddadi: Recently joined up with the Moroccan national team in 2020 despite previously playing for the European country in a competitive game. The Atlas Lions took advantage of the new FIFA rule which states, players could only change nationality if they had only featured in friendlies and not in a competitive game. However, he has 2 goals in 8 appearances for the Atlas Lions. He has a chamions league trophy in his name after lifting it with Barcelona

Achraf Hakimi

Probably Africa’s best-performing full-back at the moment, the effervescent Borussia Dortmund man didn’t play as well as his talent suggests in Morocco’s disappointing campaign last year.

Be that as it may, that was a different Hakimi, as he’s grown exponentially since the Atlas Lions’ Last 16 exit in Egypt, becoming one of the best wide defenders in European football this season.

The North African side will hope to ride the wave of the young defender’s form going into the showpiece in Central Africa.

He has had a good start to life in Paris as he’s netted thrice in his first season at the club.

For his country side, 5 goals in 40 appearances for Morocco isn’t a bad one as he will be a player everyone will be looking out for.

Hakim Ziyech

The playmaker was made the poster boy of Morocco’s failed Afcon showing in Egypt and ought to be raring to prove critics wrong if next year’s finals in Cameroon go ahead as planned. Ziyech, is currently having a tough one at Stamford Bridge as he’s yet to stamp his foot at the club due to loss of form and injuries. However, the three-time Ajax Player of the Year, will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing early exit at 2019 showdown.

He has a poor stats this season for Chelsea as he is yet to find the back of the net for the blues in the premier league, Champions league and EFL Cup as his only goal for this season was in the Super Cup. For his country, his record is such a great one as he has netted 15 times in 39 appearances.

Legends:

Mustapha Hadji: Won the African footballer of the year award in 1998. Scored a total of 12 goals in 63 appearances for Morocco. He is the current assistant manager of the Morocco national team.He was named the 50th greatest African player of all time by the African football expert Ed Dove.

Medhi Benatia: In 2018, he was considered one of the top center-backs in Africa. He began his career at Marseille. He has played in several top European clubs like Bayern Munich, Juventus and the rest. Made 66 appearances for the Atlas Lions.


Team Focus: Guinea

Tournament record:

Syli Stars of Guinea have appeared at the tournament 13 times. They have never lifted the trophy but the highest they have ever gone in the tournament is becoming Runners-up in 1976. In all 13 appearances at the tournament, they have scored a total of 59 goals.

Group opponents:

Group B

  • Senegal
  • Zimbabwe
  • Malawi

Key Players:

AMADOU DIAWARA: He broke into limelight for his club AS Roma last season and caught the eyes of Premier League side, Arsenal. Not really been a started in the Serie A for Jose Mourinho’s side but has

been a regular in their Europa Cup campaign. The defensive midfielder has made 52% success tackles for his club this season.

Peïlé Florentin Pogba: Is a Guinean professional footballer who plays as a defender for Ligue 2 club FC Sochaux-Montbéliard and the Guinea national team. He is the older brother of Paul Pogba. He has made a total of 15 appearances for the Guinean team.

Naby Keita: He can be termed as the most successful Guinean footballer. In 2015, he won the Guinean footballer of the year. During his time at Austria with Salzburg, he won Austrian Football Bundesliga Player of the Year (2015–16). For country side, he has a total of 8 goals in 44 appearances. Injury has not really been fair to him as he has made over 60 appearances for club side since his move in 2018.

Legends:

Titi Camara: He is best known for his stint with Liverpool in the 1999–2000 season, where he scored 9 goals in 33 games, memorably scoring the winner in a game against Arsenal at Highbury. In 38 appearances for the Guinean national team, he scored 23 goals.

Pascal Feindouno: In his prime, he was widely recognized as one of the best footballers to come out of Guinea. He scored 30 goals in 85 appearances between 1998 and 2012 for the Guinea national team. He was part of the winning squad of Bordeaux that won the Ligue 1 in 1998–99 season. Also won the Coupe de France in 2001–02 with Lorient.


Team Focus: Tunisia

Tournament Record:

Tunisia have won the AFCON just once in 2004. They have appeared at the competition 19 times.

Group Opponents:

Group F

  • Tunisia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Gambia

Stars to watch

Hannibal Mejbri:

Made his senior debut this year for the desert warriors at just 18 years. The Manchester United midfielder still plays for the U 23 but has broken into the

“future Paul Scholes” at Man U. He made his senior debut for the Old Trafford club when he came off the bench in the final Premier League game of last season.

Wahbi Khazri:

He plays as an attacking midfielder or striker for French Ligue 1 side Saint-Étienne and the Tunisia national team. He has been in top form for club side as he has netted 7 goals this season. He has a total of 22 goals for Tunisia.

Legends:

Riadh Bouazizi- Bouazizi was a Tunisian former professional footballer who played as a central midfielder. Bouazizi started his career with Étoile du Sahel where he amassed over 200 league appearances. In 92 appearsnces, he scored 4 and assisted 4. He won the nations cup in 2004.

Ziad Jaziri– He has 64 caps and 14 goals for the national team, and was called up to the 2006 World Cup. He was also in the 2002 World Cup squad. In addition, Jaziri was on the winning Tunisian team at the 2004 African Cup of Nations. He has 14 goals in 64 appearances.

Hatem Trabelsi- He played for top European clubs such as, Ajax Amsterdam & Manchester City. The former center back won the Nations cup with Tunisia in 2004. Also won the Eredivisie in 2001–02, 2003–04.


Team Focus: Zimbabwe

Tournament Record:

They have appeared at the competition 4 times. They have never won the competition.

Group Opponents

  • Senegal
  • Guinea
  • Malawi

Star Players:

Tino Kadewere: Without a doubt, Tino is one of Zimbabwe’s best player. He currently plays for Ligue 1 side, Lyon. Though he is yet to get a goal this season, he was in top form last season. One of his heroic moments was his winning goal against PSG last season. Scored a total of 3 goals for Zimbabwe in 19 appearances. In the 2020 season, he scored 10 goals in 35 appearances for Lyon.

Marvelous Nakamba: The Zimbabwean is likened to N’Golo Kante’s style of play. He’s a regular for Villa as he has made 11 appearances for the Premier League side this season.

Legends:

Benjani Mwaruwari: One of the biggest names to come out from Zimbabwean football as he played for top European clubs like Portsmouth and Manchester City. On his debut, he scored a goal for Manchester city on the Manchester derby. In 44 appearances for Zimbabwe, he netted 29 times. During his spell with French side Auxerre, he won the Coupe de France: 2002–03, 2004–05. He is known for his good deeds off the field as on was during the run up to the 2006 African Cup of Nations, Benjani provided the funding for the senior national team’s stay in France when they were preparing for the competition.

Peter Ndlovu: He made history by being the first African footballer to play in the new English Premier League. Played in European clubs such as Coventry City, Sheffield United, he has a total of 111 goals in 504 club appearances. On the international front, he has a total of 37 goals in 81 appearances for Zimbabwe. He is currently the coach of Mamelodi Sundowns.


Team Focus: Comoros

Comoros football federation joined CAF and FIFA in 2003, and has since been taking part in international competitions. The first football game played by this country was on August 26, 1979. In the game, they were defeated 3-0 by Mauritius. Meanwhile, their biggest victory in football was against Seychelles on September 4, 2003, which they won 7-1. They have also suffered their biggest defeats in the hands of Mauritius and Madagascar with both games ending 5-0.

The Coelacanths made their first AFCON qualifiers campaign for the 2010 AFCON, but lost at the preliminary stage on a 10-2 aggregate to Madagascar. However, things changed for them when they recorded their first away win in their football history on November 14, 2019. This was after they defeated Togo 1-0 in Lome during the AFCON qualifiers. A 0-0 drawback in Comoros guaranteed them qualification.

Their football expedition has seen them playing 29 countries in a total of 88 games. During these games, they have won 16, recorded 22 draws and suffered 50 defeats. These have also seen them scoring 61 goals and conceding 154.

Drawn in Group C, they will play alongside Morocco, Ghana and Gabon. They will be counting on the expertise of coach Amir Abdou, who has been there since January 13, 2014. They will be relying on the experience of 37-year-old midfielder, Nadjim Abdou, who is their captain and plays for FC Martigues in Championnat National 2 in France. For the goals, they will be looking at 32-year-old El Fardou Ben Nabouhane who is their top scorer with 13 goals in 26 games. Meanwhile, French Ligue 2 side, Guingamp’s Youssouf M’Changama, will be there with his experience of 40 games as Comoros’ most capped player.

As of October 21, 2021, Comoros is no. 132 in the FIFA Coca Cola Ranking.


Team Focus: Gambia

The Gambian national football team, nicknamed the Scorpions, will be playing their first-ever AFCON this January 2022.

The Gambia played their first football game in a 2-1 win over Sierra Leon on February 9, 1953, in a friendly. Back then, they were known as British Gambia. On May 14, 1972, they suffered their biggest defeat in the hands of Guinea that humiliated them 8-0 in their first African Games. However, their biggest victory has been their 6-0 spanking of Lesotho on October 12, 2002.

In their first AFCON qualifiers in 1975, they lost to Morocco in a 6-0 aggregate after both legs ended 3-0 each. Their withdrawal from the 1996 AFCON qualification saw them banned from the next edition. In 2000, they will again withdraw from the qualifiers. In May 2014, they were banned for two years for falsifying players’ ages. This saw them missing the 2015 edition.

After playing close to 40 away games, they registered their first win in a FIFA or CAF competition. This came during the AFCON 2021 qualifiers in which they shocked Angola 3-1 in Luanda-Angola.

Pa Modou Jagne, 31-years-old is their most cap player with 39 games and two goals for the Scorpions. The defender plays for the Swiss fifth-tier 2 Liga Interregional club FC Dietikon. Meanwhile, they will be expecting goals from their top scorer Assan Ceesay, 27, who had scored a total of 11 goals in 20 games for the Scorpion since making his debut in 2013.

The bringing in of coach Tom Saintfiet has changed a lot at the helm of the team resulting in their first AFCON participation. In the team’s history, they have had 11 coaches since 1987 with four being their national.

They are drawn in Group F in Limbe and will play alongside Tunisia, Mali and Mauritania. They are ranked 147 in the FIFA Coca Cola ranking.


Team Focus: Burkina Faso

Tournament Record:

The Stallions of Burkina Faso have qualified for Africa’s biggest tournament 11 times. They made their debut appearance in 1978 but it was not until 1996 that they returned to the biennial tournament. The closest they have come in lifting the trophy was in 2013 when they lost to Super Eagles in the finals.

Key players:

Bertrand Traoré: Bertrand Traore started his youth career in 2009 when he joined Auxerre. At the age of 14, he joined the Chelsea FC youth team, in 2013, he rejected the offer of joining Manchester United’s team. Since then he has progressed in his career as he has played for top European clubs like Lyon Ajax and now plays for Premier league side, Aston Villa. He is one of player coach, Kamou Malo will be relying on to get the goals. Since he made his debut in 2011, he has scored 12 goals in 59 appearances. He was part of the squad that won the U-17 African Cup of Nations in 2011 at just 14 years. Due to his scintillating performance, he broke into the senior team at just 15 years. His older brother, Alain Traoré plays for the Burkinabe national team and also plies his trade for Association Sportive d’Arta in the Djibouti Premier League.

Lassina Traoré: Another promising talent for the Burkina Faso side. At just 20, he has won the Eredivisie with Ajax on two occasions, won the Dutch Cup, Dutch super cup and also won the Ukrainian super cup with Shakhtar Donetsk. Since he made his debut for the West African side in 2017, he has scored 7 goals in 17 appearances. For club side, he has 9 goals in 14 appearances.

Did you know, Lassina Traoré’s mother was a former professional footballer and captained the Burkina Faso women’s national football team? His cousin, Bertrand Traoré, is also a professional footballer, who plays as a right winger for Aston Villa.

Legends

Moumouni Dagano: He was part of the 2013 squad that lost the final to the Super Eagles. Also, he holds the record of being Burkina Faso’s record highest goal scorer with 34 goals. He was also the highest goal scorer in 2009/10 World Cup qualification (Africa) with 12 Goals, also a French cup winner with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard (2006/07), Belgian champion with Genk in 2001/02.

Jonathan Pitroipa: The forward had an illustrious playing career, making a significant impact for Burkina Faso and the various clubs he played for. The highlight of Pitroipa’s career was when he won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament award. The forward scored a number of decisive goals at the tournament to help the Stallions finish as runner-up after losing to Nigeria in the final. Since making his debut for Burkina Faso in 2006, he has featured at the 2010, 2012 and 2013 editions of the African Cup of Nations, scoring two goals in the 2013 tournament as Burkina Faso reached the final. Pitroipa made 82 appearances for Burkina Faso, scoring 19 goals before ending his international career in 2019.

Aristide Bance: He played 79 times for the ‘Stallions’ and scored 24 goals over 16 years while helping the national team of the west African state rise from obscurity. Bance was part of the Burkinabe team that stunned Africa by reaching the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations final in South Africa, which they lost 1-0 to the Super Eagles. The ‘Stallions’ excelled again at the 2017 edition of the premier African national team tournament, finishing third behind Cameroon and Egypt in Gabon.


Team Focus: Sierra Leone

Tournament record

  • 1994: Group Stage
  • 1996: Group Stage

Group Opponents

  • Algeria
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ivory Coast

Key Players

Umaru Bangoura – Neuchatel Xamax, Switzerland

Osman Kakay: Plays as a defender for EFL Championship club Queens Park Rangers. Born in England, he represents the Sierra Leone national team. Made his senior debut for Sierra Leone in 2018 and has been able to just make 2 caps.

Alhaji Kamara – Sierra Leone will be looking up to Kamara to get their goals at next month’s tournament. Since he made his debut in 2012, he has managed just 4 goals in 9 appearances. He scored a brace against the Super Eagles at Benin when the Leone stars came from a dramatic 4 goals down to play a 4-4.

Legends:

Mohamed Kallon

One of the biggest names to come out of Sierra Leone football is Mohamed Kallon. Kallon became the youngest player to ever play for the Leone Stars when he made his senior international debut for Sierra Leone at the age of 15 in April 1995 against Congo in the 1996 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Freetown, in which he scored the winner.

At the age of 16, Kallon was the youngest player at the 1996 African Nations cup in South Africa. He scored one of his country’s two goals as Sierra Leone defeated Burkina Faso 2–1 in their opening group match at the 1996 African Nations Cup, played at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He made 39 appearances and scored 7 goals for Sierra Leone.


Team Focus: Cape Verde

Tournament Record

This is the third time the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde will be gracing the tournament, (2013, 2015 and 2021). The best they’ve gotten to is the Quarter-finals and that was their debut appearance in 2013. They were eliminated by the black stars of Ghana, ending Cape Verde’s exceptional 2013 Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

Key players

Ryan Mendes:

He spent most of his club career in France with Le Havre and Lille, and in the UAE Pro League with Sharjah and Al-Nasr. He has a total of 12 goals in 55 appearances for Cape Verde.


Team Focus: Malawi

Tournament Record

Malawi were one of the early countries that qualified for Africa’s showdown in Cameroon next year. This is the 3rd time The Flames of Malawi will be qualifying for Africa’s biggest tournament. (1984, 2010 and 2021.) They have never progressed pass the group stage in their last two appearances. Though, they’ve been runners-up on two occasions of COSAFA Cup (2002, 2003)

Group Opponents: Grouped with-

  • Senegal
  • Zimbabwe
  • Guinea

Key Players (Majority of their players ply their trade in the local league)

Hassan Kajoke: He had a total of 12 goals for club side, Big Bullets in the 2020/21 football season. He has just 2 goals in 6 appearances for the Flames of Malawi. The last match of the team Nyasa Big Bullets in which Hassan Kajoke was playing was 16th November 2021

Legend

Kinna Phiri: One of the greatest to come out from Malawian football. He scored a total of 71 goals in 117 appearances for Malawi. He is now a manager Jwaneng Galaxy. Previously, he coached the Malawi senior team from 2009-2013. He guided the Flames to their second ever appearance of the AFCON. He is ranked 11th on the list of the world’s top 20 leading scorers behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and others.


Team Focus: Mali

Tournament Record:

Mali have hosted Africa’s biggest tournament just once and that was in 2002 in which they finished the tournament as the fourth best team. They made their debut at the tournament in 1972 in which they finished as runners-up behind Congo. In 1994, 2002 and 2004, they’ve finished in fourth place while in 2012 and 2013, they finished in third place.

Group Opponents

  • Tunisia
  • Mauritania
  • Gambia

Key Players:

Yves Bissouma: He can be regarded as one of the defensive midfielders in the EPL as his performance has drawn interests from top clubs including Arsenal. Born in the Ivory Coast and raised in Mali, Bissouma participated at the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) with Mali. In the semi-final against the Ivory Coast, he was substituted on in the 76th minute and scored the decisive goal for 1–0 in the 89th minute. However they went on to lose in the final against DR Congo.

Moussa Marega: The Malian had a successful playing career with Portuguese side, FC Porto where he scored a total of 72 goals in 190 appearances before moving to Saudi side, Al Hilal last summer. Since his arrival at Al Hilal, he has netted 5 times in 12 appearances. The Eagles of Mali will be banking on his level of experience to get them far in Cameroon.

Moussa Djenepo: The Southampton man opened the scoring in Mali’s must win 3-0 over Rwanda and that saw him net his third international goal for Mali. He has a total of 3 goals in 22 appearances.

Legends

Seydou Keita

A versatile midfielder, he operated as both a central or defensive midfielder. He most notably played for Lens and Barcelona, winning 14 titles with the latter club after signing in 2008. Also played with Serie A side, AS Roma. He scored a total of 25 goals in 102 appearances. Won the La Liga with Barcelona. Also made AFCON team of the tournament on four occasions (2002, 2010, 2012 & 2013). He also guided Mali to third place of AFCON on two occasions (2012, 2013)


Team Focus: Guinea Bissau

Tournament Record:

This is the 3rd time participating at the AFCON. Previous ones were 2017 and 2019 and they have never gone pass the group stage, in short, they have never won a single match at the tournament since their debut in 2017. During the qualifying stage, Guinea-Bissau went into their final match against Congo, needing a victory to qualify. They ended comfortable winners after beating Congo 3-0 to secure their third successive AFCON appearance.

Group Opponents

  • Nigeria
  • Egypt
  • Sudan

Key Players

Beto-

Guinea Bissau will be hoping the big Udinese man plays at the AFCON next month. The 23 year old still has the opportunity to play for the Djurtus of Guinea Bissau as he also has the opportunity to play for Portugal. His physicality is what the Djurtus will be needing going into the tournament. He is on-loan from Portimonense and has netted 7 times already for Udinese in 15 appearances.

Pelé-

One of the players’ coach Guilherme Farinha will be looking upto for results. Plays as a defensive midfielder for Monaco in French ligue 1. Since making his debut for Guinea Bissau in 2017, he has managed just 1 goal in 20 appearances for the Djurtus of Guinea Bissau.


Team Focus: Ethiopia

Tournament Record:

Ethiopia was formerly one of Africa’s major forces, and played in every Africa Cup of Nations until the end of 1960s. In 1962, Ethiopia won an AFCON tournament in which they were the hosts. Since then, success has started to fade from Ethiopia’s football and after 1982, Ethiopia waited for another 31 years before they appeared at Africa’s biggest tournament in 2013.

Star players:

Shimelis Bekele: Is an Ethiopian professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder for Egyptian Premier League club Misr Lel-Makkasa and the Ethiopian national team. He represented Ethiopia in the 2013 AFCON. He plays for the Egyptian club; El Gouna. He has the most caps in the team with 68 appearances and 10 goals.

Getaneh Kebede: One of the players’ that coach Wubetu Abate will be hoping to get the goals for the Walias of Ethiopia. Since making his debut in 2010, he has 32 goals in 61 appearances. He currently plays for Saint George SA in the Ethiopian league.

Legend

Mengistu Worku:

He was an Ethiopian footballer, recognised as one of the best Ethiopian footballers in history with Luciano Vassalo and Ydnekatchew Tessema. He is best known for his role in the final of the 1962 African Nations Cup, and for being the head coach to take the Ethiopian national team to the African Nations Cup in Libya in 1982. He scored a total of 61 goals in 98 appearances for Ethiopia.

Mengistu was given numerous, offers to play professionally for teams in Italy’s Serie A and France, but like earlier legend and coach Ydnekatchew, he refused all offers and stayed in Ethiopia wearing Saint George’s characteristic “V” across his chest. Mengistu wore the number 8 for the entirety of his club and national team career.


Team Focus: Gabon

Tournament Record:

They’ve appeared at the AFCON 8 times and their best result at the tournament has been the Quarter- finals stage.

Player Focus:

Mario Lemina: Aside from Aubameyang, they have another good hand in Mario Lemina. The panthers will be expecting him to bring his high level of experience to the team. The former, Juventus man currently plies his trade in Ligue 1 side, OGC Nice and has a total of 3 goals in 23 appearances for Gabon.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang- The name that jumps out of the mouth of every football fan. The entire Gabon will be looking upto him for goals at the tournament. He might not been having the best of season at his club, but one will always count on him to turn up for country. The Arsenal striker has 29 goals in 71 appearances for his country.


Team Focus: Equatorial Guinea

Tournament Record

They have been at the tournament on 3 occasions and Cameroon 2022 will make it their 4th appearance. Their best was in 2015 which they hosted and got to the Semi-Finals in which they lost to the black stars of Ghana.

Players:

Most of their players play for the second division in Spain.

Emilio Nsue: He currently is without a club but surprisingly is Equatorial Guinea’s highest goal scorer with 13 goals in 25 appearances.

Pedro Obiang: One of the biggest names to have come out from Equatorial Guinea. Played in top European clubs like Sampdoria, West Ham and currently plays for Sassuolo in Italy. Has 3 goals in 11 appearances for Equatorial Guinea.


Team Focus: Mauritania

Tournament Record

Mauritania made their debut at AFCON during the 2019 edition where they couldn’t qualify pass the group stage. This is their second appearance at the tournament and will be going with players plying their trade in the lower division of European leagues and their local league in Mauritania.

Group F

  • Tunisia
  • Mali
  • Gambia

Player Focus:

Cheikh El Khalil Moulaye Ahmed – commonly known as Bessam plays for the Mauritania national team and is one of the biggest players to come out from Mauritania. One of the biggest heights in Bessam’s footballing career was helping his country to qualify to the 2014 African Nations Championship in South Africa where they were disqualified from the groups’ stage. Since his debut, the 34-year-old has scored 12 goals in 60 appearances for Mauritania. Currently plies his trade for FC Nouadhibou in their local leagues.


Team Focus: Egypt

The most successful country on the African continent with 7 AFCON titles. Since the establishment of AFCON, Egypt has been a frequent participant, having played in 25 of 33 AFCON editions, the most of all participants in African history.

Key Players:

Mohamed Salah:

One player the world will be watching at the tournament. Just this season alone, the player has scored 23 goals in 26 appearances for Liverpool. The big question is would the Super Eagles be able to tame the player?

Mohamed Elneny: Not the regular starter for Arsenal but has always been an important player for the Pharaohs of Egypt. He has a total of 8 goals in 82 appearances for Egypt.

Trezeguet: The Aston Villa winger has been absent since March due to a long-term injury and since recovering earlier this month, he featured in just 60 minutes for the Villians U23 team and featured in Sunday’s loss against Brentford. Since his return, he has scored once for the U23 side.

Legends

Hossam Hassan: A prolific goal scorer. He is Egypt’s all-time top scorer with 83 goals in 176 appearances. Retired at the age of 40, Hassan has amassed an impressive array of titles, including three African Nations Cups (1986, 1998, and 2006), while being the only player to do so.

Essam El-Hadary: In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, at the age of 45 years and 161 days, he became the oldest player in history to play in a World Cup match. He is the Third on the list of all-time appearances for Egypt, El Hadary made 159 international appearances for his nation between 1996 and 2018. He won the AFCON four times, and was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper on three occasions.

Mohamed Aboutrika: He is often considered one of the best Egyptian players in history. Aboutrika won the AFCON in 2006 with the Egyptian national team. He also scored the winning goal to help Egypt win the AFCON 2008. He helped his club Al Ahly to win the bronze medal in the FIFA club world cup in 2006.