Afcon 2021: Everything you need to know about tournament in Cameroon

Dates: 9 January – 6 February Venue: Cameroon Protection: Ten video games proven reside on BBC with information, round-ups, experiences and reside textual content protection on BBC Sport web site

The primary main soccer match of 2022 kicks off on Sunday, with the Africa Cup of Nations taking centre stage.

A bunch of Premier League and European stars will descend on Cameroon, with the hosts going through Burkina Faso within the opening sport.

First scheduled to start out in June 2021 however subsequently introduced ahead to January final yr to keep away from Cameroon’s wet season, the match has been delayed to 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Confederation of African Soccer (Caf) has confronted criticism over the timing of its continental showpiece, and final month needed to tackle rumours the match can be additional delayed or moved following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright mentioned among the damaging media protection has been “disrespectful” and “tinged with racism”.

What is the format and when are the video games?

For the second successive match, the Nations Cup could have 24 members.

Which means six teams of 4, with the highest two qualifying for the final 16 alongside the 4 best-ranked third-placed sides.

Video games shall be held at 13:00, 16:00 and 19:00 (all instances GMT) throughout the group levels, with the 2 latter kick-off instances getting used within the knockout levels from Sunday, 23 January.

The BBC will broadcast 10 video games together with the ultimate in Yaounde’s Olembe Stadium on Sunday, 6 February. The primary sport proven would be the heavyweight conflict between Nigeria and Egypt on Tuesday.

The ball getting used is the Umbro Toghu, named after a multicoloured and finely embroidered outfit initially designed for royalty however now widespread all through Cameroon.

Who’re the principle contenders?

It’s exhausting to look previous holders Algeria, who’re on a 34-match unbeaten run and led by Manchester Metropolis winger Riyad Mahrez.

Sadio Mane’s Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked aspect for the previous three years, had been runners-up in 2019 and among the many major challengers, whereas document seven-time champions Egypt boast arguably the most effective participant on the planet proper now in Mohamed Salah, who has shone for Liverpool this season.

Ghana and Nigeria are among the many continent’s most profitable international locations however had unconvincing 2022 World Cup qualification campaigns, whereas Cameroon – chasing their sixth Nations Cup title – will fancy their probabilities on residence soil.

Mali could possibly be a shock bundle after reaching the World Cup play-offs by going unbeaten regardless of being stripped of residence benefit.

Ivory Coast, Morocco and Tunisia are among the many different former champions current and, on the different finish of the spectrum, Comoros and The Gambia are first-time qualifiers.

What in regards to the timing?

There have been grumbles from some European golf equipment about releasing their gamers mid-season for the match.

Premier League membership Watford, as an example, had been accused of “baring fangs” by Nigeria in a dispute over the provision of Emmanuel Dennis, a battle the Hornets ultimately gained.

Nonetheless, the local weather in Cameroon and being pressured to shift the biennial match right into a World Cup yr has left Caf with restricted choices over its timing.

The 2023 version is scheduled to happen in June and July subsequent yr in Ivory Coast.

Gianni Infantino, president of world governing physique Fifa, has proposed shifting future Nations Cups to between September and November in a revised worldwide calendar.

What about off-field points, like coronavirus?

The pandemic has clearly had an influence on the match, with Caf capping attendances at 60% of capability for many matches.

Video games involving hosts Cameroon shall be permitted to have 80% capability, and solely those that have been double-vaccinated and have a damaging Covid check can attend matches.

With simply 2% of the nation totally jabbed in accordance with figures from Our World in Information, it is going to be fascinating to see how these restrictions influence on attendances on the 52 matches unfold throughout the six stadiums.

A number of international locations reported instances within the build-up to the match, with Cape Verde struck by an outbreak of their coaching camp and debutants The Gambia pressured to name off two friendlies, with greater than half their squad unavailable.

Infrastructure in Cameroon and their readiness to host have been questioned, given they had been on account of stage the 2019 match which needed to be moved to Egypt.

There are safety considerations over Limbe, a metropolis within the south-west area affected by battle lately by native militants pursuing a separatist agenda.

Since 2017, armed teams – who argue that the Anglophone areas of Cameroon have been marginalised by the primarily French-speaking authorities – have tried to type a breakaway state known as Ambazonia.

In a bid to keep up order, armoured autos and checkpoints have been deployed this week throughout Limbe, the place a automotive bomb exploded on the eve of Cameroon’s internet hosting of the African Nations Championship in January 2021, with additional explosions having additionally taken place within the space in current months.

Native officers have mentioned the safety measures taken imply there shall be no disruption to Afcon, with Limbe set to host eight matches, together with two knockout video games.

How one can comply with the match

The BBC will broadcast 10 video games, together with two quarter-finals, each semis and the ultimate. Sky Sports activities will present each match in Cameroon, with beIN SPORT, Canal+ and SuperSport amongst these providing protection throughout Africa.

The BBC Sport web site can even hold you updated throughout the match, encompassing information and each day round-ups of matches, with reside textual content protection from the quarter-finals onwards.

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