The 33rd edition of the biggest football tournament on the soil of Africa, tagged AFCON 2021 has kicked off. It will see some of the biggest football stars around the globe converge in Cameroun to defend their respective national badges. The Africa Cup of Nations is a biennial competition, organized by Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF).
Over the years, the format of the tournament has continually evolved consequently to the growth of football within the continental landscape. The latest modification was made in 2019 incorporating 24 participating teams. The competition, initially scheduled for the summer of 2021, was postponed after COVID-19 had inhibited soccer activities in the continent.
Egypt has been the most successful team in the tournament, with a staggering triumph of seven titles till date. They also have the most appearances (25) in the tournament, while the current champion is Algeria.
With the famous competition in its nascent stage, let us put all the groups under the scanner to forecast the favorites to qualify from each group.
GROUP A - AFCON 2021
The Indomitable Lions, who are the hosts of the 33rd edition of this famous competition, appear rejuvenated after a few months of dismal outings. Toni Conceicao's men are the strongest side in the pack per FIFA rankings. They recently displayed their strength in the wake of their World Cup qualifying conquest that resulted in the elimination of Cote d'Ivoire.
They will fancy their chances of emerging winners in this seemingly tough group. Burkina Faso, runner-up to AFCON 2013, is expected to pursue Cameroun in the second-place qualification slot after an impressive run in the CAF World Cup qualifiers (three wins and three draws).
The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde had quite a decent run in 2021, losing only two matches (vs Algeria and Ivory Coast) out of ten. They could topple any of the top two teams to steal a place in the knockout rounds or contend for a best-loser berth. Ethiopia's exit should not come as a surprise.
Group B - AFCON 2021
Senegal, who boast a plethoric flow of quality in their ranks, head into the AFCON tournament as the biggest favorite to win the crown. The West African side, by first principle, are expected to emerge as group winners after stellar outings in 2021.
Right behind them are Guinea, who are 15th placed in the CAF rankings and had a fair turn of results (two wins, five draws and three losses) in 2021. They are tipped to make it to the knockout stages as runners-up with 35th-placed Malawi and 31st-ranked Zimbabwe giving them a run for the prize.
GROUP C - AFCON 2021
The third subset of AFCON 2021 is expected to be quite nervy as Morocco, Ghana, and a Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang led-Gabon fight for limited slots in the last 16.
However, the Moroccan Atlas Lions, who won 12 of 14 matches in 2021, are predicted to take the first berth to make huge strides towards lifting this year's AFCON.
The rejuvenated Black Stars, who also had a fine 2021 run (with five wins, three stalemates and two losses) should emerge as runners-up in this race. But Gabon could secure a best-loser spot in the last 16. That is if Captain Auba’s men are not sloppy against debutants Comoros.
GROUP D - AFCON 2021
The Egyptian Pharaohs have arguably the most-lethal forward on the planet in Mohamed Salah who has 23 goals and 10 assists to his name this season. Egypt, despite being eight spots behind the Super Eagles in the FIFA rankings, are tipped to pip the Naija Boys to the top spot to emerge as group winners.
The three-time African champions head into AFCON 2021 after parting ways with Gernot Rohr and Augustine Eguavoen taking over the reins.
Nigeria’s woes have worsened as the absence of notable stars such as Victor Osimhen and Emmanuel Dennis spells decimation at the strength of their team. Guinea Bissau and Sudan are predicted to battle for third position behind the aforementioned top two teams.
GROUP E - AFCON 2021
Current champions Algeria have also proved impregnable with a 39-match undefeated streak. That included their triumph in the just concluded Arab cup, and are prognosticated to emerge as winners in cruising fashion.
The Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire will be motivated to clinch second spot in the wake of their elimination from World Cup qualifying.
Equatorial Guinea, who have enjoyed decent results in 2021 could pull off an upset to jump the first hurdle into the AFCON 2021 knockout stages. Sierra Leone, unfortunately, is likely to flounder in the first round and may not go through.
GROUP F - AFCON 2021
In the final stratum of the event, Tunisia are tipped to emerge victors despite their recent display of frailties. Albeit showing signs of deficiencies, the Eagles of Carthage should not be taken for a weak side. Their strong run in the just concluded Arab cup, where they ended as runners-up, auspicates that they can always find a way to hurt other teams.
Mali is, however, expected to give Tunisia a fierce fight for second place in this group. Behind the top two teams, Mauritania and the coronavirus ravaged, debuting Gambian teams would fight for third spot.