AFCON 2021: Sunday Oliseh Tips Cameroon As Credible Contenders

Oliseh lauds Cameroonian side as genuine contenders for AFCON 2021
File photo of former Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh

 

Super Eagles legend, Sunday Oliseh, has named the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon as genuine title contenders for the AFCON 2021.

Cameroon last won the title in 2017 after defeating Egypt at Gabon, courtesy of goals from Nicolas Nkoulou and Vincent Aboubakar.

Oliseh who is no stranger to winning titles himself, after lifting the trophy in 1994, showered his admiration and praise for the Cameroonian side via his Twitter handle.

READ ALSO: Brentford Offer Christian Eriksen Six-Month Contract – Reports

“Tall, strong, solid, aggressive, compact hosts & relatively well organized! ” the former Super Eagles team coach wrote.

Despite a flaw of being non-progressive at times in their play, that didn’t deter the 47-year-old from pronouncing them as credible contenders for the AFCON title.

“The indomitable Lions team, though at times static & not so nimble-footed, is definitely, in my opinion, a credible title contender and Fun to watch with Aboubakar. AFCON is heating up!!,” he said.

 

The Indomitable Lions qualified to the knock-out stages of the competition after an emphatic 4-1 victory over the Ethiopian side.

Cameroon are vying for a 6th AFCON title, one short of 7-time winners Pharaohs of Egypt.

Aboubakar Scores Again As Cameroon Joined By Burkina Faso In Last 16

Cameroon's forward Vincent Aboubakar eyes the ball during the Group A Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Cape Verde and Cameroon at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on January 17, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP
Cameroon’s forward Vincent Aboubakar eyes the ball during the Group A Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Cape Verde and Cameroon at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on January 17, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

 

Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar scored his fifth goal of the Africa Cup of Nations and his already-qualified side were joined by Burkina Faso on Monday in the second round.

The Saudi Arabia-based forward, who turns 30 on Saturday, put Cameroon ahead and substitute Garry Rodrigues equalised for Cape Verde after half-time in a 1-1 draw in Yaounde.

Cyrille Bayala put Burkina Faso in front and Getaneh Kebede levelled for Ethiopia from a penalty in Bafoussam in another 1-1 draw that was enough to take the west Africans through.

READ ALSO: Gabon’s Aubameyang Leaves Cameroon, Returns to Arsenal

Cameroon topped the final group table with seven points.  Burkina Faso edged Cape Verde on head-to-head records for second place after both accumulated four points. Ethiopia were eliminated with just one point.

While Cameroon and Burkina Faso are assured of last-16 places, Cape Verde must wait to see if they go through as one of the best four third-placed teams from the six groups.

Cameroon will remain in Yaounde to play a third-placed team on January 24, a day after Burkina Faso meet the Group C runners-up in Limbe.

Should Cape Verde survive, they will play the winners of Group B or Group C in Bafoussam or Yaounde on January 25.

“We won the group, which was our goal, although we wanted to win all our matches. We will continue to play here in Olembe,” said Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao.

“We had many chances. The Cameroonian team was not brilliant but still played a good game. We can do better, but if we take an overall reading, we were superior to our opponents in the group.”

Aboubakar is the first Cameroonian to score in all three group matches at a Cup of Nations since Samuel Eto’o achieved the feat with five goals at the 2008 finals in Ghana.

Nine-goal record

Ndaye Mulamba holds the record for the most goals by an individual in the flagship African tournament with nine for Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in Egypt 48 years ago.

Aboubakar has a clear lead in the Golden Boot competition with his closest rivals, compatriot Karl Toko-Ekambi, Tunisian Wahbi Khazri, Malian Ibrahima Kone and Malawian Frank Mhango, scoring two each.

In Yaounde, Cameroon broke the deadlock on 39 minutes in a cagey opening half dominated by the two defences.

A free-kick from the Indomitable Lions was partially cleared and Aboubakar rifled a low, left-foot shot through a crowd of players and past goalkeeper Josimar ‘Vozinha’ Dias into the corner of the net.

Cape Verde reacted to falling behind by becoming more adventurous and troubled the Cameroon rearguard several times before half-time without managing an equaliser.

The island nation introduced Rodrigues for the second half and he equalised within eight minutes through an exquisite back-heel off a low cross that beat goalkeeper Andre Onana.

Aboubakar should have put Cameroon ahead again midway through the second half but blazed over when the ball ran loose inside the box.

In Bafoussam, a city 300 kilometres (185 miles) north west of Yaounde, Burkina Faso went ahead on 25 minutes through Bayala.

After a superb long pass from the centre circle by Adama Guira, Bayala outmuscled two Ethiopian defenders and chipped the ball over advancing goalkeeper Teklemariam Shanko and into the net.

But instead of building their lead, the Burkinabe Stallions conceded on 52 minutes when Ethiopia captain Kebede levelled from a penalty awarded after a VAR review.

Burkina Faso welcomed back captain Bertrand Traore, the Aston Villa forward, after his recovery from Covid-19, but a positive test ruled out goalkeeper Herve Koffi.

 

AFP

Cameroon Senator Killed In Restive Anglophone Region

 

An opposition senator was shot dead in western Cameroon where a bloody insurgency has been waged by anglophone separatists against the state, his party and an official said.

Lawmaker Henry Kemende, whose body was found Wednesday, “was killed (overnight) by unidentified armed assailants”, a local communications ministry official confirmed on condition of anonymity.

He had been a lawyer and lawmaker for the Social Democratic Front (SDF), one of Cameroon’s main opposition parties.

The killing happened in Bamenda, a major town in the country’s northwest region which, along with the southwest, has seen a spate of insurgent violence by members of the regions’ anglophone minority against the predominantly French-speaking security forces.

READ ALSO: Mali Travellers Stranded As West African Sanctions Bite

“We recovered his body, his chest riddled with bullets,” Joshua Osih, the vice president of the SDF, confirmed to AFP.

The vehicle in which the victim was travelling at the time of the attack had “disappeared”, he added.

A senate official who requested anonymity confirmed the information to AFP.

No one had come forward to claim the killing as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We assume it’s the ‘Ambazonians’,” Osih suggested, referring to the armed anglophone insurgent groups.

Cameroon has been torn by violence since October 2017, when militants declared an independent state in the northwest and southwest, home to most of the anglophone minority in the majority French-speaking country.

Both the separatists and government forces have been accused of atrocities in the fighting, which has killed more than 3,000 people and forced over 700,000 to flee their homes.

Armed groups are regularly accused of abducting, killing, or injuring civilians whom they accuse of “collaborating” with Cameroonian authorities.

Several SDF leaders have been targeted previously including John Fru Ndi, the party’s president.

Fru Ndi has run several times against President Paul Biya, 88, who has ruled the country with an iron grip for nearly 40 years.

Osih said separatist elements opposed the SDF because it is a predominantly English-speaking party that participates in the political process and is opposed to the partition of Cameroon. 14Z4DQ

It is the third-largest party in the national assembly, the lower house which, like the senate, is dominated by Biya’s RDPC party.

NGOs and the UN accuse Biya of repressing dissent in the English-speaking areas as well as clamping down hard on political opponents.

AFP

Hosts Cameroon Beat Burkina Faso In AFCON Opener With Aboubakar Double

Cameroon players celebrate after they won the Group A Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso at Stade d’Olembé in Yaounde on January 9, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

 

Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored a brace of penalties as hosts Cameroon came from behind to beat Covid-ravaged Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations in Yaounde on Sunday.

Gustavo Sangare had given Burkina Faso the lead in the Group A match at the Olembe Stadium, but Aboubakar equalised from the spot five minutes before the interval after a VAR review.

The 29-year-old, who netted the winner in the 2017 Cup of Nations final against Egypt, then scored what proved to be the decider in first-half stoppage time and he was only denied a hat-trick by an offside flag after the break.

Read Also: [PHOTOS] One Year After Postponement, AFCON 2021 Kicks Off

It is the perfect start for the Indomitable Lions as they seek to win their sixth continental title on home soil, with Cameroon finally getting to host a tournament that was taken away from them and given to Egypt in 2019 before being postponed a year ago due to the pandemic.

Covid restrictions limited the crowd at the Olembe Stadium to 80 percent of its 60,000-capacity, but that did not spoil the party for the hosts and celebratory fireworks lit up the sky at full-time.

The match and opening ceremony were attended by Cameroon’s 88-year-old President Paul Biya, who has ruled the Central African country for 40 years, as well as FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Confederation of African Football supremo Patrice Motsepe.

However, Aboubakar, the former Porto striker who these days plays his club football in Saudi Arabia, was the star of the show as Cameroon immediately seized the initiative in Group A, in which they will also play Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Burkina Faso were dealt a blow on the eve of the tournament when it emerged that coach Kamou Malo and several players had tested positive for the coronavirus, leaving assistant coach Firmin Sanou to take charge of the team.

Yet they went ahead in the 24th minute when Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana came for and missed a Bertrand Traore cross from the right and France-based midfielder Sangare was there to turn the ball in at the far post.

Nevertheless, Cameroon, coached by the Portuguese Toni Conceicao, turned the game on its head by half-time with the help of VAR.

The Algerian referee gave the Indomitable Lions a penalty for a foul by Traore on Napoli’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Aboubakar stroked home to equalise in the 40th minute.

He then netted from 12 yards again in first-half stoppage time after a reckless challenge by Issoufou Dayo.

Burkina Faso threatened a second-half comeback as Traore tested Onana with a free-kick from range and Adama Guira then had an attempt saved by the goalkeeper, but the home side held on.

Cameroon Hosts AFCON Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

AFCON trophy.

 

Fifty years after last hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon kicked off the continental showpiece on Sunday targeting a sixth title while hoping the spectre of the coronavirus does not overshadow the tournament.

Cameroon, who play 2013 runners-up Burkina Faso in their opening Group A match at the vast new 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, know expectations are high for the Indomitable Lions.

However, they will have to measure up to the likes of reigning champions Algeria, the Senegal of Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

Cameroon was initially supposed to be the host nation in 2019, before being stripped of the tournament due to delays in its preparations, with Egypt taking over. The 33rd Cup of Nations was then postponed last year because of the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Djokovic Tested Positive To COVID-19 In December, Lawyers Tell Court

The Central African country of 27 million people was, therefore, determined to press on with the competition amid reports last month that leading European clubs wanted it postponed again due to Covid concerns.

This time it does go ahead, and Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao is well aware of the pressure on his side.

“It’s what they put on the table when I signed my contract: at least get to the final, do everything to win it,” Conceicao told AFP.

“We feel that the people and history of Cameroon oblige us to do it. It sets the bar pretty high, but we’re convinced we can reach these goals.”

“We’ve got a big weight on our shoulders,” added the Portuguese.

African football officials have set down tough Covid-19 rules in a bid to prevent the competition from becoming a super-spreader event, requiring teams to play even if just 11 players are available.

Gabon star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was forced to isolate in his hotel after testing positive on Thursday, while Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked national team, travelled to Cameroon without three members of their squad for the same reason.

Senegal then had key defender Kalidou Koulibaly test positive shortly after their arrival.

‘Scandal’ 

Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traore called the testing procedures a “scandal” after at least four squad members and coach Kamou Malo tested positive in the run-up to Sunday’s opener.

“It’s a scandal, we cannot be deprived of first team players 24 hours before the match,” said Traore.

“The authorities must review the organisation.”

Covid, though, is far from the only concern in a country dealing with a conflict in the English-speaking west.

Matches in Group F, featuring Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia, are due to be played in Limbe, a coastal city close to Mount Cameroon which is also a hotspot of separatist unrest.

Jihadist raiders also pose a problem in the north, at least beyond the city of Garoua where Salah’s Egypt and Nigeria will play group games.

It is because of the health crisis that organisers have capped crowd limits at 60 percent of capacity, or 80 percent when the hosts play.

Spectators must be vaccinated and have a negative test result, but only six percent of the adult population is inoculated.

Cameroon, though, is football mad and many fans will be desperate to attend games in a country that has only hosted the Cup of Nations once before, in 1972 when there were just eight participants.

However, the nation that gave the world the likes of Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o — the latter now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation — no longer boasts the same level of stardust.

Comoros, Gambia Debut 

They have Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, but the real superstars of the continent will be elsewhere.

Senegal boast not just Liverpool forward Mane but also Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Holders Algeria, unbeaten in 33 competitive games, will be led by Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, while Morocco have PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi and Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, amongst others.

Nigeria, meanwhile, cross the border without Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, or Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis, whose club said they received notice of his call-up too late.

In any case this Cup of Nations is not just about the big names, as Gambia, ranked 148th in the world, and the Indian Ocean island state of the Comoros make their debuts.

AFP

AFCON 2021: Cameroonians Ready For Football Fun


Theodore, 28, a vendor unwraps a scarf for a client in Yaounde on January 5, 2022. The Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) starts on January 9, 2022, in Cameroon after a postponement in 2021.
Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

Workers are applying final touches to the fan zones in Yaounde ahead of the long-awaited launch this weekend of Africa’s biggest sporting event.

Beset by months of problems and uncertainty, the month-long Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) gets underway on Sunday when host nation Cameroon play Burkina Faso.

Preparations to get the giant screens, shops, restaurants, and fan space ready for thousands of supporters in the nation’s capital are definitely in a last-minute mode.

“We Cameroonians love to leave everything to the last gasp,” laughs Simon Atangana, a former national player who is part of an organisation setting up the fan zones.

“Everything will of course be ready. AFCON is going to be a huge party, and the pictures will be spread around the world.”

But a familiar foe — coronavirus — is a potential fly in the ointment.

The global pandemic forced the postponement of AFCON from last year, and fears of another delay were eased only last month.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has set down tough rules in a bid to prevent AFCON from becoming a super-spreader event.

Those wanting to enter the stadium must be completely vaccinated — in a country where just six percent of the adult population has been jabbed — and show a negative PCR test for the virus that is less than 72 hours old.

READ ALSO: Eagles Loss To Central African Republic + 12 High, Low Moments Of Nigerian Sports In 2021

Venues have been limited to 60 percent of capacity, although this is being raised to 80 percent when Cameroon’s “Indomitable Lions” take the field.

The rampant spread of the Omicron variant is casting a pall over team lineups.

Gabon’s Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the latest player to test positive and may miss his country’s Group C open match against Comoros on January 10.

“We asked CAF whether we can replace some of our players who got infected with Covid-19 but the answer is no,” said The Gambia’s coach, Tom Saintfiet.

“If this still remains to be the case, it could be a catastrophe… but according to the current rules, we are not allowed to replace anybody in the final list of the 28-men squad.”

Waiting For The Party 

In Yaounde’s Warda Square, hawkers of flags, shirts, and vuvuzela horns say they have had a slow start in trade.

“Business hasn’t taken off yet as much as I would like, but I’m optimistic,” said Arnaud Medja, 29, dressed from head to toe in Cameroon’s national colours of green, yellow and red.

“It’s just taking more time than scheduled. It’s just the Covid rules which have come along and put a dampener on things.”

The cup and the tournament’s lion mascot Mola have been going around the streets of Yaounde, backed by dancers and musicians and escorted by motorbike riders bedecked with the flags of all the competing nations.

“AFCON is going to be fun — a party,” said Laurentine, a 33-year-old cosmetics saleswoman.

“It’s going to be great to see the town move and watch everyone get out again.”

Desperate For Tickets


Theodore, 28, a vendor, holds football accessories that he sells in Yaounde on January 5, 2022. The Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) starts on January 9, 2022, in Cameroon after a postponement in 2021.
Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

 

On Wednesday, dozens of people lined up outside ticket outlets after AFCON said seats were being put on sale, although they waited in vain.

“I spent all day yesterday queuing. I went to the city hall, to the Ahidjo stadium, and now it’s the Palais des Sports,” said Karine Sunshine, 23.

“But there’s still nothing on sale. I am desperate to see the opening match.

“We’ve been waiting 50 years for this moment — that was the last time AFCON was staged in Cameroon. So I got my vaccinations, and now I am waiting a bit longer because the Cameroonians are going to win the cup. Just look at the atmosphere there’s going to be this weekend.”

But not everyone seemed to be aware of the tournament’s anti-Covid restrictions — or even to be particularly worried about the virus.

In Yaounde’s central market, hundreds of people, none of them masked, thronged the stalls as Cameroonian and international music blasted from loudspeakers.

“Yes, of course, I will be going to the stadium,” said Abdoulay, a water seller. “You have to get vaccinated (to get in)? Oh, in that case, I won’t go.”

“There’s no corona in Cameroon, and we don’t want the vaccine here. You don’t know what it contains and vaccinated people catch the disease anyway,” he said.

AFP

Security Fears Loom Over Africa’s Football Fiesta

AFCON trophy.

 

After overcoming fears of postponement because of the Covid pandemic, the Africa Cup of Nations now faces its next big worry: security.

Host nation Cameroon will ceremonially launch the month-long tournament on Sunday when they face Burkina Faso.

But the authorities are struggling with separatist gunmen in the west and jihadist raiders in the north — and some fear militants will seize the country’s turn in the sporting spotlight to launch attacks.

Security forces in the west are on high alert after armed groups sent threatening messages to teams in Group F, gathering Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia.

The four teams are scheduled to play in the coastal town of Limbe, and their training site is Buea, a hotspot of separatist unrest.

READ ALSO: AFCON Games To Be Played With 80% Capacity Crowd

“The threats are very serious,” Blaise Chamango, head of an NGO in Buea called Human Is Right, told AFP by phone.

“On Wednesday, there was an explosion in a takeaway outlet in Limbe. That sent a very powerful message.”

He added: “The government has stationed heavily armed soldiers at nearly all the crossroads in Buea and Limbe. Security and defence forces are arresting and searching everyone they see in some districts.”

Separatist Campaign 

Buea is the capital of the Southwest Region, which with the neighbouring Northwest Region is in the grip of violence sparked by a bid by Cameroon’s anglophone minority to secede from the French-majority country.

After years of frustration at perceived discrimination, separatists declared a “Federal Republic of Ambazonia” in October 2017.

The entity, which has no international recognition, is based on the former British Southern Cameroons, which joined Cameroon after the French colony gained independence in 1960.

More than 3,500 people have died and more than 700,000 have fled their homes. Rights monitors say atrocities and abuses have been committed by both sides.

In his New Year’s message, Cameroon’s veteran hardline president, 88-year-old Paul Biya, warned that while some independence fighters had handed themselves in, the militants “continue to engage in criminal activity, increasing their use of improvised explosives and killing unarmed civilians”.

The government’s mantra is that “safety will be guaranteed” for AFCON, although neither the authorities nor the Confederation of African Football (CAF) responded to AFP requests for information on security measures.

Jihadist Fears

On Monday, the atmosphere in the capital, Yaounde, was more relaxed than in the troubled English-speaking regions some 250 kilometres (150 miles) to the west.

A handful of security agents kept half an eye on final preparations at the brand-new Paul Biya Stadium in the district of Olembe, built specially for the CAN and home to the Cameroonian national squad.

“Security is only really a concern in the Northwest and Southwest regions and I think our defence forces have enough experience to respond adequately,” said James Mouangue, head of the national human rights commission and a professor of public law.

“The security measures put in place are exceptional, given the level of risk, and there were no problems when we hosted the African Nations Championship in January 2021,” he noted.

Separatist militants are not the only spectre haunting Cameroon.

The country’s Far North region, the tongue of land that touches on the troubled Lake Chad region, has in the past suffered cross-border raids by jihadists from neighbouring Nigeria.

Attacks have fallen back since militants from Boko Haram and the West African branch of the so-called Islamic State group (ISWAP) began a bloody internecine war.

But some fear the groups could seek to grab attention by striking in Yaounde, the economic hub Douala or the north itself.

Others, though, say such plans may be too much of a stretch.

“I don’t think the jihadists can disrupt the Cup unless they carry out a really large attack, even though that remains a possibility,” said Guibai Gatama, editor of northern Cameroon’s leading twice-weekly publication, L’Oeil du Sahel (The Eye of the Sahel).

“The stadium in the North where Group D (comprising Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan and Guinea Bissau) will play is located in Garoua, which is very far from their sphere of operation.”

AFP

AFCON: ‘Bring Us The Cup,’ Senegal President Tells Team

File photo: Senegal’s forward Sadio Mane (3rd-R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Group C football match between Kenya and Senegal at the 30 June Stadium in the Egyptian capital Cairo on July 1, 2019. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

 

Pre-tournament favourites Senegal head to Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with an added pressure after President Macky Sall told Sadio Mane’s side on Tuesday to “bring us the cup”.

Senegal have twice reached the final, in 2002 and 2019, but have yet to win the continental title.

“This time, I’m not talking about the final but about the cup. You will have to fight to bring us the cup,” said the Senegalese leader, speaking in Wolof to the staff and players at the presidential palace.

“You can do it. You are the best tactically, technically and qualitatively”, he continued in French, adding it would now be a question of “will” and “fighting spirit”.

READ ALSO: AFCON Games To Be Played With 80% Capacity Crowd

The Senegalese were due to take off in the evening for Cameroon, where the tournament begins on Sunday.

The Lions, led by Liverpool striker Mane and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, will face Zimbabwe in Group B on January 10, followed by matches against Guinea and Malawi.

AFP

AFCON Games To Be Played With 80% Capacity Crowd

AFCON trophy.

 

Stadiums at this month’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon will have their capacity capped at 80 percent for the host’s matches due to the coronavirus pandemic, the African Football Federation said Tuesday.

Other fixtures in the competition starting on January 9 and finishing on February 6 will only be played in front of 60 percent of the ground’s capacity.

Sunday’s opening match between Cameroon and Burkina Faso will be played at the 60,000-seater Olembe stadium in Yaounde.

“After many consultations with the Cameroonian government, in light of the evolution of the health crisis and the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, AFCON, and the local organising committee have agreed an upper limit of between 60 percent-80 percent for the capacity of stadiums in the Africa Cup of Nations,” CAF (African Football Federation) said.

Strict coronavirus regulations have already been put in place for the tournament, postponed from last year due to the virus.

READ ALSO: [AFCON] ‘Bring Us The Cup,’ Senegal President Tells Team

Spectators must be vaccinated and present a negative test before being granted entry into matches.

Many sides have been impacted by infections, including Nigeria who will be without Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Gambia who have had to pull out of two pre-AFCON (African Cup of Nations) friendlies.

AFP

Premier League Stars Set For ‘Exceptional’ Africa Cup Of Nations

AFCON trophy.

 

Premier League trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez will be star attractions in Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, which promises to be “exceptional” according to the top football official in the continent.

The 36-match group phase kicks off on January 9 at the newly built Olembe Stadium in Yaounde and the tournament concludes at the same 60,000-seat venue on February 6 with the final.

Champions Algeria top a 24-team cast that includes former title-holders Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia.

While record seven-time winners Egypt will be making an unrivalled 25th appearance at the African football showpiece, Comoros and Gambia are debutants.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Tests Positive For COVID-19 Again

It is a wide-open competition with Algeria, unbeaten in 33 matches since late 2018, the logical favourites, but there are at least seven other nations capable of conquering Africa.

Cameroon, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia will believe they can go all the way while Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali should not be underestimated.

Guinea, who rank among the outsiders, have been told by junta leader Mamady Doumbouya that they must repay state-funded preparation costs if they do not return to Conakry as champions.

The build-up to the biennial tournament has been marred by rumours that it would be postponed or cancelled owing to a worldwide coronavirus surge.

There have also been reports of Cameroon racing against the clock to complete preparations for the biggest African sporting event.

This is the fourth attempt by the central African state to play hosts after failing to meet 2019 deadlines and being replaced by Egypt, then losing out to unfavourable weather conditions and Covid-19.

But as Liverpool forwards Salah and Mane, Manchester City winger Mahrez; Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, and other Premier League stars prepare for action, Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe is upbeat.

“We are going to host with the people of Cameroon an exceptional tournament. It will be the most successful AFCON (Cup of Nations),” he said during a visit to Yaounde.

“The world will witness the best of African football and hospitality. We can host a football tournament as good as any in Europe.”

 Angry Eto’o

In this file photo taken on December 10, 2021, Samuel Eto’o Fils (C), an ex-Cameroonian footballer, is seen during the election of a new president of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fécafoot) at the Mont Febe Hotel in Yaounde.  Photo by Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP)

 

Motsepe and Cameroon football legend Samuel Eto’o, now head of the national football federation, have been stung by suggestions that the Cup of Nations should be delayed or scrapped over the pandemic.

“If the Euros took place this year in the middle of a pandemic, with full stadiums in many cities, why would the Cup of Nations not be played in Cameroon?,” asked Eto’o in a Canal+ interview.

“Or are people trying to say that, as always, Africans are not worth anything so we have to put up with it?”

As Cup of Nations organisers applied finishing touches to the six venues, from Douala on the Atlantic coast to Garoua in the north west, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp stirred a verbal storm.

Klopp referred to the Cup of Nations as a “little tournament” during a press conference only to later say “I did not mean it like that”.

Senegal coach and former star Aliou Cisse was furious, asking reporters in Dakar “Who does Klopp think he is?

“I respect Liverpool but not Klopp, who undermines African football. He is where he is today because of African footballers like Salah, Mane, (Naby) Keita and (Joel) Matip.”

Having to free Africans during the European season is a sore point with managers and Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti labelled the Cup of Nations an “invisible monster”.

The Serie A title challengers could lose Algerian Adam Ounas, Cameroonian Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Nigerian Victor Osimhen and Senegalese Kalidou Koulibaly for close to six weeks.

Senegal-born Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira says the Cup of Nations “needs to be more respected because this tournament is as important as the Euros”.

Another coach facing potential unhappiness is South Africa-born Pitso Mosimane from African and Egyptian club giants Al Ahly, nine of whose stars are in various Cameroon-bound squads.

Ahly are scheduled to compete at the Club World Cup in the UAE between February 3 and 12, creating a headache if any nation with Ahly stars reaches the early February semi-finals in Cameroon.

AFP

Cameroon Record Four COVID-19 Cases Before AFCON

FILE: Cameroon’s Bangou Tchamba (C) fights for the ball with Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier (L) and Sebastien Haller (L) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Four Cameroon players including attacker Pierre Kunde Malong have tested positive for Covid-19 less than two weeks away from the Africa Cup of Nations, the holders’ head of communications said Thursday.

The quartet had been in quarantine since Wednesday after “strong suspicions” upon their arrival with the squad, Serge Guiffo told AFP.

“Pierre Kunde Malong, Jean Efala Konguep, Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Christian Bassogog will continue their isolation away from the squad,” he added.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Tests Positive For COVID-19 Again

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting left training early after suffering a knee issue.

“The MRI undertaken immediately afterwards will tell us more about its extent and his potential unavailability,” Guiffo said.

The five-time winners open the tournament on January 9 by facing Burkina Faso and also play Cape Verde and Ethiopia in the group stage.

The biennial competition has been pushed back twice, first because of fears that torrential seasonal rains could affect the tight schedule, and then because of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

An Ex-Madrid Assistant Coach… Six Things To Know About New Eagles Manager

File photo:  Former Venezuela coach Jose Peseiro gestures during the Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match between Venezuela and Peru at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 27, 2021. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Following weeks of deliberations and consultations, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Wednesday named Jose Peseiro as the new coach of the Super Eagles. 

The 61-year-old will be taking over from German gaffer, Gernot Rohr, who was dismissed earlier in the month after some unconvincing performances by the three-time African champions.

While his much-awaited appointment came when the senior national team’s camp had opened for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the federation clarified that the Portuguese coach will not be taking Nigeria to the competition.

It instead explained that interim manager, Austin Eguaveon, will be in charge as the country pushes for a fourth continental crown in Cameroon early next year.

Despite a handful of names making the news in the quest for a new Eagles manager, fans are divided over the NFF’s choice.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Tests Positive For COVID-19 Again

Below are six things to know about the Super Eagles latest handler: 

A Spell With Real Madrid

Peseiro is reputed to have had spells with some top clubs in Europe including Real Madrid.

He was an assistant to compatriot Carlos Queiroz in 2003.  The Los Blancos finished fourth that season, leading to their dismissal from the job.

Quit Last Job Over Unpaid Wages

With less than two weeks to a triple-header of World Cup qualifiers, he resigned from his job as Venezuela’s coach in August 2018, citing unpaid wages.

President of the Venezuela Football Federation, Jorge Gimenez, admitted that Peseiro was owed “no more and no less than one year” of salary, adding that “he’s hardly been paid anything from his tenure.”

First Time Coaching African National Team

While the former FC Porto coach is not new to African football having managed the Egyptian side, Al Ahly, the Nigerian job is the first time he will be in charge of a national team on the continent.

At Al Ahly, he, however, did not last more than the 2015/2016 season with the African Super Cup holders.

Managed/Worked With High-Profile Teams/Coaches

Apart from Real Madrid, Peseiro has also had stints with some top clubs in Europe.

The coach has worked with top Portuguese sides like FC Porto and Sporting CP, playing in the Champions League with the latter. In addition, the new Nigerian manager at some point worked with Jose Mourinho and Carlos Queiroz.

Well-Educated

Nigeria’s new coach has a Master’s degree in sports science, a big plus for the Super Eagles.

Began Coaching In 1991

Having retired from playing football at 34, the Portuguese started his coaching career as a player-coach with Union Santarem in the Portuguese fourth division.