The coveted CAN is finally here, the prospects are high in Cameroon

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A few hours before the highly anticipated start of the 2021 African Cup of Nations on Sunday, host Cameroon is now preparing to organize the coveted tournament on the continent.

The first match will pit the hosts, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon against Burkina Faso in Yaoundé on Sunday at the Olembe stadium.

Cameroon were initially supposed to be the host country in 2019, before being deprived of the tournament due to delays in their preparations, with Egypt replacing them. The 33rd Nations Cup was then postponed last year due to the pandemic.

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

Cameroon’s dream this time is to be in the final in the capital Yaoundé on February 6, as they seek to add to their five titles, a total improved only by Egypt, seven-time African champion, a record.

Senegal, Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, among others, are other countries looking to win the 2021 tournament.

On Friday, the president of the Cameroonian football federation Samuel Eto’o visited the Cameroonian player at his training ground to encourage him as he prepares to prove his worth.

The central African country of 27 million was therefore determined to continue the competition amid reports last month that major European clubs wanted it to be postponed again due to concerns about Covid.

This time it’s gone, from Sunday when Cameroon, coached by Portuguese Toni Conceicao, faces Burkina Faso in Yaoundé, but the specter of the coronavirus does not go away.

Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabonese teammate Mario Lemina tested positive on Thursday and were in isolation at their hotel.

Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked national team, traveled to Cameroon without three of its team testing positive.

“Unprecedented times,” Egyptian coach Carlos Queiroz tweeted on Friday after reports of positive tests in his side’s camp.

“The more difficult the situation becomes, the more we stay together and stronger,” he added.

– Covid is not the only concern –

Covid, however, is far from the only concern in a country facing conflict in the English-speaking West.

Group F matches, featuring Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and The Gambia, are expected to be played in Limbe, a coastal town near Mount Cameroon which is also a hotspot of separatist unrest.

Jihadist raids are also a problem in the north, at least beyond the town of Garoua where Salah’s Egypt and Nigeria will play group matches.

It is because of the health crisis that organizers have capped crowd limits at 60% of capacity, or 80% when hosts are playing.

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

It remains to be seen how many venues will be close to filling the restricted capacity, in particular the vast new Olembe stadium with 60,000 seats in Yaoundé and the Japoma stadium with 50,000 seats in Douala.

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

Cameroon’s dream this time is to be in the final in the capital Yaoundé on February 6, as they seek to add to their five titles, a total improved only by Egypt, seven-time African champion, a record.

“We know the Cameroonians have high hopes because the competition is taking place here,” coach Conceicao told the BBC.

– Senegal, Algeria the favorites –

However, the nation that gave the world Roger Milla and Samuel Eto’o – the latter now president of the Cameroon Football Federation – no longer has the same level of stardust.

They have Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and they should certainly qualify in a squad that also includes Ethiopia and Cape Verde, but the real superstars of the continent will be elsewhere. .

Senegal, who face Zimbabwe, Guinea and Malawi in Bafoussam, in the west of the country, not only have Liverpool striker Mane, but also Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Naples central defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Algeria, defending champion, unbeaten in 33 competitive matches, will be led by Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City, while Morocco will include, among others, PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi and Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

No wonder some European clubs are not happy to lose a player of such caliber for up to a month in mid-season.

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

In any case, this Nations Cup is not just big names, since The Gambia, ranked 148th in the world, and the Indian Ocean island state of the Comoros are making their debuts, while South Africa is making their debut. part of the absent.


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