2022 AFCON Playoffs AFCON 2021 : Assessing the favorites

The delayed 2021 African Cup of Nations is under 60 days away and all the preparations at the host country, Cameroon are getting the final touch ups. Among the African giants, perhaps the biggest absentees in the competition will be South Africa and Congo DR. Each of the top ranked 11 nations in Africa will be at the competition, which promises a month of very entertaining football.

Outside the top 11, we will also have 14th placed Guinea staking their claim for the continental crown while there are a number of minnows also set to challenge, including Comoros, Malawi, Mauritania, Sudan and Ethiopia.

Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameron, Mali and Burkina Faso are the top ranking 11 nations in that order, and all will be at the competition.

For once, the draw for the groups seems well balanced and it would be hard to pick out a specific Group of Death. Save for Group B, which has the AFCON 2019 finalists Senegal, each of the other 10 top ranking nations will face off at the group stages.

However, Senegal will still have a tough encounter to plan for, against fellow West Africans, the 14th ranked Guinea. Like it has been in most of the previous AFCON editions, the winner at the end is expected to come from one of the top ranking nations and it will definitely not be a surprise to have the AFCON predictions on SportyTrader favoring one of them to emerge champions.

Algeria, are the current champions having beaten Senegal in the final in 2019 in Egypt and even then, all the teams that reached the semis belonged to this elite group, the others being Tunisia and Nigeria.

In Group A of the competition Burkina Faso and Cameroon will face off, while Group B has Senegal, whose biggest challenge is expected from Guinea. In Group C, Ghana and Morocco will be the highlight teams and in Group D we will have Egypt and Nigeria facing off. Defending champions Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire will highlight Group E while Mali and Tunisia are expected to run rings in Group F.

In the new format of the tournament, which was introduced for the 2019 edition, 24 teams book tickets for the finals and after the group stages, unlike previously, where it went straight to the quarters, the competition goes to the Round of 16 first.

So, from the 24 teams at the group stage, 12 will book straight tickets to the second round courtesy of finishing in the top two slots in their groups. After that, the four best finishers in third place across the groups will join the 12, to form 16 teams to contest in the second round. From there the flow to the quarters, semis and final is straight away.

All Groups:

Group A: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde and Ethiopia.

Group B: Guinea, Malawi, Senegal and Zimbabwe.

Group C: Comoros, Gabon, Ghana, and Morocco.

Group D: Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Sudan.

Group E: Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Group F: Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Tunisia.


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