The 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations commences this weekend, as Cameroon take on Burkina Faso Sunday evening.
Despite cancellation threats over civil and Covid-related issues in recent weeks and months, the tournament will kick-off at 6PM South African time, signalling the official start of a 4-week party.
The Indomitable Lions are hosting this particular showpiece, and will be going all out to add a sixth title to their impressive AFCON collection. They were victorious in this competition just five years ago, with current Bafana coach Hugo Broos leading them to the title in Gabon in 2017.
7 – Egypt (7) are the only country to have won more AFCON titles than Cameroon (5).
Alongside Tunisia, hosts Cameroon will be making their 20th appearance at an AFCON finals, becoming the 4th & 5th sides to appear in the tournament 20+ times. Only Egypt (making their 25th appearance), Ivory Coast (24th appearance) and Ghana (23rd appearance) have featured in the tournament on more occasions. As regulars, they will be expected to at least go past the Group Stage. As hosts, the expectations will be even higher.
They have hosted AFCON once before (an eight team tournament in 1972), emerging unbeaten in their Group, but losing out 1-0 to Congo in the semis. A 5-3 win in the third place playoff was the subsequent consolation.
6 – No nation has played more opening matches at the Africa Cup of Nations finals than Cameroon (6, level with Ethiopia).
That said , Cameroon have a mixed record in their tournament opening matches, winning two, drawing two and losing one such encounter. They won the opening match when they hosted the tournament in 1972 (2-1 v Kenya) and also won the opening match in 1998, against Sunday’s opponents Burkina Faso. The sole defeat came at the hands of South
Africa in January 1996, 3-0. Phil Masinga, Mark Williams and Shoes Moshoeu were on target for Bafana Bafana then, who would later lift that title.
1 – Since the tournament changed to odd numbered years, only one of the four AFCON hosts have won their tournament opening game (Egypt 1-0 Zimbabwe, in 2019).
Ever since Mali came from 4-0 down with 11 minutes to play to draw 4-4 against Angola in 2010, the opening game curse is also characterised by a lack of goals. The following five tournaments have seen 1, 0, 2, 2, 1 goal(s) in the opening game. As for the Burkinabe, they return to the tournament having missed out on the 2019 edition. The West Africans were losing finalists in South Africa in 2013 and losing semi-finalists in Gabon in 2017, with a Group stage elimination in 2015.
However, their opening game record isn’t good.
0 – Burkina Faso are appearing in their 12th AFCON tournament, but are yet to win their opening game (D5 L6 before this edition).
Other Group day matches
Ethiopia v Cape Verde
Ethiopia are appearing in the Africa Cup of Nations finals for only the second time in the 21st century. They have won just one of the 12 Group games (D3 L8). However, they managed to beat Ivory Coast on their way to qualifying for this tournament two years ago.
Cape Verde are in their 3rd tournament, making their debut in South Africa in 2013 (drew 0-0
with Bafana in their first ever game) and also appearing in 2015. They have won just one of seven games at the finals, losing one and drawing the other five.
By Opta Jabu