After being postponed last year, the 2021 African Cup Of Nations (AFCON) will finally get underway this coming weekend with the hosts Cameroon taking on Burkina Faso in the first game on Sunday.

A host of the world’s best African players will be in Cameroon with their national team hoping to emulate Algeria, who won the trophy the last time the tournament was contested back in 2019, defeating Senegal 1-0 in the final.

The tournament has grown markedly over the last 30 years or so, moving from a small 8-team tournament, to one that now sees almost every country in Africa attempting to qualify for one of the 24 spots available in the finals every two years.

This tournament should have been played in the summer of 2021, but was moved to winter of 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Future tournaments will be played on odd-numbered years and also in the June/July period to fall in line with the FIFA calendar.

There is going to be a huge amount of interest in the betting for this tournament and if you are someone that fancies a bet on the winner or on a particular game, then check out the wide range of bets available on the tournament with bet365 Sport.

American-based customers can also enjoy some great betting on the event with BetRivers Sportsbook which offers a fantastic range of soccer bets for tournaments all over the globe throughout the year.

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The Development Of The African Cup Of Nations

After being first competed for in 1957, the AFCON was played sporadically over the next ten years. However by 1968, the tournament became much more organised. Not only did it now see eight teams qualify for the tournament, but it was agreed that the tournament would be held in January & February every two years from 1968 onwards.

Back then, not many African players plied their trade abroad, but as time passed and African players began to play all over the world in the 1980s and 1990s, it became apparent that many clubs resented having to lose key players for a month during the season every two years.

By 1998, the tournament had grown to 16 teams (it would grow to 24 by 2017) and after discussions with FIFA, the tournament switched to odd years in 2013, to avoid being played in a World Cup year and it was also agreed that tournaments from 2019 onwards would be played June/July rather than Jan/Feb to allow players to remain with their clubs for the season.

Covid put a temporary hiatus on those plans for the 2021 tournament, but the forthcoming tournament promises to be one of the most exciting and intriguing for many years.

AFCON Facts And Figures

  • Egypt have won the most African Cup of Nations tournaments winning 7 in total.
  • Other nations to have won the trophy on multiple occasions include Cameroon (5), Ghana (4), Nigeria (3), Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Algeria (all 2).
  • Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Morocco, Congo and South Africa have all won the tournament once.
  • Senegal are the only team to have competed in more than one AFCON Final without winning the trophy, losing both the 2002 and 2019 finals.
  • Egypt are the only country to win the trophy for three successive tournaments (2006, 2008 and 2010).
  • Only two of the last ten AFCON finals have seen more than one goal scored.
  • The 2023 tournament will be played in the Ivory Coast and the 2025 tournament in Guinea.
  • The current trophy is the third one used for the tournament after the first was permanently awarded to Ghana after its third win in 1978 and the second permanently awarded to Cameroon for its third win in 2000.
  • Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon holds the record for most AFCON tournament goals with 18.

2021 African Cup Of Nations – Draw And Fixture Schedule

Group A

  • Burkina Faso
  • Cape Verde
  • Cameroon (Hosts)
  • Ethiopia

Group A Match Schedule

9th January

  • Cameroon v Burkina Faso
  • Ethiopia v Cape Verde

13th January

  • Cameroon v Ethiopia
  • Cape Verde v Burkina Faso

17th January

  • Cape Verde v Cameroon
  • Burkina Faso v Ethiopia

Group BPremier League numbers

  • Guinea
  • Malawi
  • Senegal
  • Zimbabwe

Group B Match Schedule

10th January

  • Senegal v Zimbabwe
  • Guinea v Malawi

14th January

  • Senegal v Guinea
  • Malawi v Zimbabwe

18th January

  • Malawi v Senegal
  • Zimbabwe v Guinea

Group C

  • Comoros
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Morocco

Group C Match Schedule

10th January

  • Morocco v Ghana
  • Comoros v Gabon

14th January

  • Morocco v Comoros
  • Gabon v Ghana

18th January

  • Gabon v Morocco
  • Ghana v Comoros

Group D

  • Egypt
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Nigeria
  • Sudan

Group D Match Schedule

11th January

  • Nigeria v Egypt
  • Sudan v Guinea Bissau

15th January

  • Nigeria v Sudan
  • Guinea-Bissau v Egypt

19th January

  • Guinea-Bissau v Nigeria
  • Egypt v Sudan

Group E

  • Algeria
  • Ivory Coast
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Sierra Leone

Group E Match Schedule

11th January

  • Algeria v Sierra Leone

12th January

  • Equatorial Guinea v Ivory Coast

16th January

  • Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone
  • Algeria v Equatorial Guinea

20th January

  • Ivory Coast v Algeria
  • Sierra Leone v Equatorial Guinea

Group F

  • Gambia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Tunisia

Group F Match Schedule

12th January

  • Tunisia v Mali
  • Mauritania v Gambia

16th January

  • Gambia v Mali
  • Tunisia v Mauritania

20th January

  • Gambia v Tunisia
  • Mali v Mauritania

Knockout Phase

The qualifying teams for the Knockout Phase will be:

  • The top two teams in each of the six groups. (12 teams)
  • The top four third-placed teams in the group stage (4 teams)

From then on a one-leg knockout tie will decide each game with extra time and penalties used to decide the winner.

  • Round of 16 – 23rd to 26th January inclusive
  • Quarterfinals – 29th & 30th January
  • Semifinals – 2nd & 3rd February
  • 3rd Place Playoff & AFCON Final – 6th February

10 Players To Watch At The AFCON

Here’s our list of the best ten players playing at the AFCON over the next month or so.

  1. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
  2. Sadio Mane (Senegal)
  3. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
  4. Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
  5. Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal)
  6. Thomas Partey (Ghana)
  7. Wilfred Zaha (Ivory Coast)
  8. Naby Keita (Guinea)
  9. Yves Bissouma (Mali)
  10. Franck Kessie (Ivory Coast)

Who Are The Best Bets For This Years AFCON?

If you are looking for an outsider as a good value bet, perhaps each way for this tournament, then my money would be going on Mali (25/1 with bet365 Sport) as I think that they have a proven pedigree in this tournament and their squad is one of the strongest that they have sent to this tournament in many years. They don’t have the quality of some other teams in the tournament, but are good enough to beat any of them on their day.

However, if I am going to back a team to win the tournament outright then I think Senegal, the favourites at 4/1 and Ivory Coast, who are a more tempting 8/1 are the teams that I would consider the most. For me, these are the two strongest squads in the tournament although both do have a reputation for choking on the bigger stages.

It’s a close call between them but I just feel at 8/1, Ivory Coast offer slightly the better value.