This weekend, the month-long African Cup Of Nations (AFCON) tournament gets underway in Cameroon. Almost all of the world’s top African-based football stars will be in attendance having left their clubs in late December or early January to get ready for the battle to see who is the best team in African football.
The 24 teams competing will play at a number of venues across Cameroon, with eight teams being eliminated after the initial Group Phase, which is followed by a straight knockout tournament which will get underway on the 23rd January.
The final itself will take place in at the Stade Omnisport Paul Biya in Olembe, Cameroon on the 6th February, kicking off at 7.00pm UK Time.
The popularity of the AFCON has grown markedly over the last 20 years or so, especially with many more top African stars playing in Europe and interest in the tournament will be huge, and if you want to enjoy a bet on the winner, or any of the games taking place, then bet365 Sport will offer a wide range of pre-match and In Play bets on the tournament and its games.
African Cup Of Nations – A History
The first African Cup of Nations was contested in 1957 in Sudan and saw Egypt run out winners of the tournament which saw just three teams competing.
By 1968, the tournament had expanded to eight teams and a qualifying tournament was now required to earn a place in the finals. It was also agreed that the tournament would be played every two years, rather than on an ad-hoc basis.
By 1998, the tournament now comprised of 16 teams in the finals and almost every major country in Africa participated in the qualifying competition. In 2017, to bring the tournament in line with the FIFA calendar, the tournament was moved to June/July, despite this being the rainy season in many parts of Africa.
The competition was also further expanded to 24 teams in the finals.
The most successful team in the tournament’s history is Egypt with 7 victories, followed by Cameroon with five and Ghana with four. Ghana also have the distinction of being the team beaten most often in the final achieving five runners-up finishes over the years.
Nigeria have three titles to their name with Ivory Coast, Algeria and DR Congo winning the tournament twice. Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa and Congo have all won the tournament once.
Senegal is the only team to have reached more than one final but not yet won the trophy, but they are amongst the favourites to win the tournament this year after finishing as runners-up to Algeria back in 2019.
Let’s now preview the tournament, starting with a look at the 24 teams competing and the six groups into which they have been drawn for the first phase of the competition.
African Cup Of Nations 2022 – Group Stage Draw
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cameroon (Hosts)
Group A Match Schedule
- Cameroon v Burkina Faso
- Ethiopia v Cape Verde
- Cameroon v Ethiopia
- Cape Verde v Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde v Cameroon
- Burkina Faso v Ethiopia
Group B Match Schedule
- Senegal v Zimbabwe
- Guinea v Malawi
- Senegal v Guinea
- Malawi v Zimbabwe
- Malawi v Senegal
- Zimbabwe v Guinea
Group C Match Schedule
- Morocco v Ghana
- Comoros v Gabon
- Morocco v Comoros
- Gabon v Ghana
- Gabon v Morocco
- Ghana v Comoros
- Guinea Bissau
Group D Match Schedule
- Nigeria v Egypt
- Sudan v Guinea Bissau
- Nigeria v Sudan
- Guinea-Bissau v Egypt
- Guinea-Bissau v Nigeria
- Egypt v Sudan
- Ivory Coast
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sierra Leone
Group E Match Schedule
- Algeria v Sierra Leone
- Equatorial Guinea v Ivory Coast
- Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone
- Algeria v Equatorial Guinea
- Ivory Coast v Algeria
- Sierra Leone v Equatorial Guinea
Group F Match Schedule
- Tunisia v Mali
- Mauritania v Gambia
- Gambia v Mali
- Tunisia v Mauritania
- Gambia v Tunisia
- Mali v Mauritania
AFCON Knockout Phase
Sixteen teams qualify for the knockout phase as follows:
- The top two teams in each of the six groups. (12 teams)
- The top four third-placed teams in the group stage (4 teams)
The knockout phase begins with the Round of 16 on the 23rd January. Each game is a single leg tie with extra time and then penalties used to decide the winner in the event of a draw.
- Round of 16 – 23rd to 26th January inclusive
- Quarterfinals – 29th & 30th January
- Semifinals – 2nd & 3rd February
- 3rd Place Playoff – 6th February
- Final – 6th February
Top 25 Players To Watch At The AFCON
Outlined below is our list of the top 25 players to watch at the African Cup of Nations, and the countries which these players play for in the tournament.
- Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Liverpool)
- Idrissa Gueye (Senegal & Paris St Germain)
- Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool)
- Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Manchester City)
- Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast & Crystal Palace)
- Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal & Napoli)
- Naby Keita (Guinea & Liverpool)
- Sebastian Haller (Ivory Coast & Ajax)
- Tino Kadawere (Zimbabwe & Lyon)
- Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast & AC Milan)
- Sofiane Feghouli (Algeria & Galatasaray)
- Yves Bissouma (Mali & Brighton)
- Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria & Leicester City)
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Arsenal)
- Taiwo Awoniyi (Nigeria & Union Berlin)
- Ismael Bennacer (Algeria & AC Milan)
- Jeremie Boga (Ivory Coast & Sassuolo)
- Omar Colley (Gambia & Sampdoria)
- Ismaila Sarr (Senegal & Watford)
- Ibrahima Kone (Mali & Sarpsborg 08)
- Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia & Saint-Etienne)
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria & Leicester City)
- Achraf Hakimi (Morocco & Paris St Germain)
- Thomas Partey (Ghana & Arsenal)
- Amadou Diawara (Guinea & AS Roma)
Who Are The Teams To Back For The AFCON 2022?
A quick look at the latest odds with bet365 Sport for this event reveals that the losing finalists of the last tournament, Senegal, are the 4/1 favourites to win the trophy, ahead of holders Algeria at 6/1. Egypt are 7/1, with the Ivory Coast 8/1 and Cameroon, Morocco and Nigeria all rated as 9/1 chances.
The odds then do start to drift a little with Ghana a 12/1 chance, Tunisia 14/1 and then the odds tail off to Mali at 25/1. The rank outsiders with bet365 are Sierra Leone who are a 400/1 chance to win the tournament.
Looking at the draw and how the tournament looks going forward, I think my pick would be the Ivory Coast, who I feel have the strongest squad in the tournament but I also feel that Senegal and possibly Cameroon will run them close.