The draw ceremony for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals holds today in Yaounde with three –time champions Nigeria in Pot 1 of the draw, and may likely being drawn against seven –time winners Egypt (Pot 2), 2022 FIFA World Cup foes Cape Verde (Pot 3) and the gritty and gutsy Comoros team that recently achieved a first-ever qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (Pot 4).
All teams in the same pot avoid one another but they could be drawn against any in the other pots, so no one can rule out the likelihood of the Super Eagles clashing with the Pharaohs, the Blue Sharks and surprise packets Coelacanths.
Being grouped in Pot 1 together means the Eagles, who picked up the bronze medals at the last edition in Egypt two years ago, will avoid Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions (five-time champions), Senegal’s Lions of the Teranga (Africa’s number one –ranked team), Tunisia (2004 champions and Africa’s number two –ranked team), Cup holders Algeria (now ranked number three in Africa) and 1976 winners Morocco (now ranked fourth in Africa, a step above the Super Eagles).
The draw ceremony formally kick-starts preparations for all teams concerned.
However, the disruption caused by the global coronavirus pandemic means the AFCON 2021 is now to hold 9th January – 6th February 2022, with the qualifying series of the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals yet to be concluded before the AFCON. The knockout rounds for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be held in March 2022.
Most of the teams involved in Cameroon 2021 will be using the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers as preparatory sessions, with six tough games to negotiate between September and November, and only the last week of December and the first week of January open for any camping programme.
Pot 1: Cameroon, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria
Pot 2: Egypt, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea
Pot 3: Cape Verde, Gabon, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone
Pot 4: Malawi, Sudan, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, The Gambia