The year 2022 is a footballing year.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is coming up in November, the Champions League final in May, several top leagues and cup finals within the year, as well as the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The first of the lot in the calendar year is AFCON, which is being hosted by Cameroon. Originally, the tournament was supposed to take place in June 2021. But due to the unfavourable climatic conditions in Cameroon during this period, and an outbreak of Covid-19 across the continent, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) then rescheduled the tournament to take place from 9 January to 6 February 2021.
24 teams qualified for this year’s showpiece, with these 24 teams divided into six groups of four teams.
Only the hosts Cameroon received an automatic qualification spot, with the other 23 teams qualifying through a qualification tournament.
The teams in each group will play a single round-robin. After the group stage, the top two teams from each group and the four highest-ranked third-placed teams advanced to the round of 16.
The round of 16 winners will advance to the quarter-finals and the quarter-final winners advance to the semi-finals. The semi-final losers will then play in a third-place match, while the semi-final winners will play the final.
Group A: Cameroon (host), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde Islands, Ethiopia
Group B: Guinea, Malawi, Senegal, Zimbabwe
Group C: Comoros Island, Gabon, Ghana, Morocco
Group D: Egypt, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Sudan
Group E: Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone
Group F: Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Tunisia
Highest ranked teams/favourites
Senegal: FIFA Ranking – 20th (1st in Africa).
Senegal are currently the strongest team in Africa. They have been the continent’s top-ranked side in the last three years and have arguably the strongest starting XI and squad in the tournament.
Liverpool‘s Sadio Mane, Chelsea‘s Eduoard Mendy and Napoli‘s Kalidou Koulibaly are some of the biggest names in the squad, while the likes of Idrissa Gana Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Keita Balde and a fit Ismailia Sarr can improve any side in the continent.
Aliou Cisse’s team have unfinished business in this tournament after finishing as runner up in the last edition.
They will be desperate to go a step further than they did last time and win their first AFCON title.
Algeria: FIFA Ranking – 28th (3rd in Africa).
AFCON defending champions Algeria are one of the strongest sides in this year’s campaign.
“Les Fennecs” have a squad capable of retaining their title. They come into this tournament on the back of winning the FIFA Arab Cup.
They are currently on a 34-match unbeaten streak and look highly likely to break Italy’s record of 37 unbeaten matches.
Their best players are Riyad Mahrez Youcef Atal and Ramy Bensebaini.
Morocco: FIFA Ranking 28th (2nd in Africa).
Morocco come into the 2022 AFCON as one of the strongest teams.
The North African side have lost just once in 34 games, and have also kept 17 clean sheets from 21 matches since the beginning of 2021 (an 81% shutout rate).
Their squad is also full of talented players who will be desperate to add to their single AFCON winners’ medal this year.
Egypt: FIFA Ranking 45th (6th in Africa).
Egypt are the record holders of AFCON with seven titles to their name.
They come into this tournament as one of the favourites and will be looking to add to their impressive tally again.
“The Pharaohs” are led by Mohamed Salah who is arguably the best player in the world on current form. Aside from that, Portuguese tactician Carlos Quieroz is the man at the helm and has the experience and coaching discipline to take this side far into the tournament.
Cameroon: FIFA Ranking 50th (7th in Africa).
Tournament hosts Cameroon are also one of the teams to watch out for in this year’s AFCON, given their home advantage.
Historically, they are usually high-performers in the continental tournament and have five AFCON titles to show for it.
With the support of their home crowd, they will be desperate to add another title to their current five.
The team boasts a pool of talented players like Andre Onana, Karl Toko Ekambi and Vincent Aboubakar.
The six venues selected to host the matches are:
The Olembe Stadium and the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in the capital, Yaounde.
The Japoma Stadium in Douala.
The Limbe Stadium in Limbe.
The Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam.
The Roumde Adjia Stadium in Garoua.
The opening match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso and the final will take place at the newly built Olembe Stadium.
Schedule (Time is in IST)
Sunday, January 9
Group A: Cameron vs Burkina Faso, 9:30 pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Monday, January 10
Group A: Ethiopia vs Cape Verde, 12:30 pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Group B: Senegal vs Zimbabwe, 6:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Group B: Guinea vs Malawi, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Group C: Morocco vs Ghana, 9:30 pm, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Tuesday, January 11
Group C: Comoros vs Gabon, 12:30 am, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Group E: Algeria vs Sierra Leone, 6:30 pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Group D: Nigeria vs Egypt, 9:30 pm, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Wednesday, January 12
Group D: Sudan vs Guinea-Bissau, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Group F: Tunisia vs Mali, 6:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Group F: Mauritania vs Gambia, 9:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Thursday, January 13
Group E: Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast, 12:30 am, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Group A: Cameroon vs Ethiopia, 9:30 pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Friday, January 14
Group A: Cape Verde vs Burkina Faso, 12:30 am, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Group B: Senegal vs Guinea, 6:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam)
Group B: Malawi vs Zimbabwe, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam)
Group C: Morocco vs Comoros, 9:30 pm, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Saturday, January 15
Group C: Gabon vs Ghana, 12:30 am, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Group D: Nigeria vs Sudan, 9:30 pm, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Sunday, January 16
Group D: Guinea-Bissau vs Egypt, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Group F: Gambia vs Mali, 6:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Group E: Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone, 9:30 pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Group F: Tunisia vs Mauritania, 9:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Monday, January 17
Group E: Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea, 12:30 am, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Group A: Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Group A: Cape Verde vs Cameroon, 9:30 pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Tuesday, January 18
Group B: Malawi vs Senegal, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Group B: Zimbabwe vs Guinea, 9:30 pm, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Wednesday, January 19
Group C: Gabon vs Morocco, 12:30 am, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Group C: Ghana vs Comoros, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Thursday, January 20
Group D: Egypt vs Sudan, 12:30 am, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Group D: Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Group E: Ivory Coast vs Algeria, 9:30 pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Group E: Sierra Leone vs Equatorial Guinea, 9:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Friday, January 21
Group F: Gambia vs Tunisia, 7pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Group F: Mali vs Mauritania, 7pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Sunday, January 23
Group A runner-up vs Group C runner-up, 9:30 pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Monday, January 24
Group D winner vs Group B/E/F third-place, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Group B runner-up vs Group F runner-up, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Tuesday, January 25
Group A winner vs Group C/D/E third-place, 12:30 am Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Group B winner vs Group A/C/D third-place, 9:30 pm, Kouekong Stadium, Bafoussam
Wednesday, January 26
Group C winner vs Group A/B/F third-place, 12:30 am, Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde
Group E winner vs Group D runner-up, 9:30 pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Thursday, January 27
Group F winner vs Group E runner-up, 7pm, Limbe Stadium, Limbe
Saturday, January 29
Quarter-final 1: Round-of-16 game 4 winners vs Round-of-16 game 3 winner, 9:30 pm, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Sunday, January 30
Quarter-final 2: Round-of-16 game 1 winner vs Round-of-16 game 2 winner, 12:30 am, Roumde Adjia Stadium, Garoua
Quarter-final 3: Round-of-16 game 7 winners vs Round-of-16 game 6 winner, 9:30 pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Monday, January 31
Quarter-final 4: Round-of-16 game 5 winners vs Round-of-16 game 8 winner, 12:30 am
Thursday, February 3
Semi-final 1: Quarter-final 1 winner vs Quarter-final 4 winner, 12:30 am, Japoma Stadium, Douala
Friday, February 4
Semi-final 2: Quarter-final 2 winner vs Quarter-final 3 winner, 7pm, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde
Sunday, February 6
Semi-final 1 loser vs Semi-final 2 loser, 9:30 pm (Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo, Yaounde)
Sunday, February 7
Semi-final 1 winner vs Semi-final 2 winner, 12:30 am, Olembe Stadium, Yaounde.