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A Look Back at AFCON 2021

A Look Back at AFCON 2021

The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament is one football competition to remember. The AFCON is the biggest international men’s association football competition in Africa, and it is organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

The recently concluded 33rd edition of the tournament in Cameroon was initially slated for 2021 but was delayed to 2022 due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Unpreparedness of the host nation

Cameroon was stripped of the AFCON hosting rights in 2019 due to their unpreparedness and inadequate facilities. It appears Cameroon was still not ready for the 2021 event. Some national team coaches blamed the organizers for their unfair treatment during their stay at the competition. The Gambia coach, Tom Saintfiet, called them out for their lack of rooms and poor sanitary living conditions.


According to him, six players slept in one room and shared the same shower. Some staff members also had to sleep two on the same bed despite living in the times of Covid-19.

A little bit of history and bragging rights

Of the 54 countries, only 14 countries have won the AFCON since its inception in Sudan in 1957. Some countries have enjoyed more success at the AFCON tournament, claiming glory more than once. The African nations with the highest numbers of wins are:

CountryNo of wins
Ivory Coast2
DR Congo2
AFCON past winners

Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa and the Congo have won the trophy once. But now we can add the Teranga Lions Senegal‘s national team to the list of 1st title holders for winning the 2021 (2022)tournament and current AFCON champions, having beaten Egypt on penalties in the final.


Who were the defending champions?

Algeria (but crashed out in the group stage)


Senegal, (1st title)

The Runners-up

Egypt (First Runners-up)


Cameroon (Third place)

The winning prize?

The Prize money for winning the AFCON title was $5 million (£3.7 million) awarded to Senegal. Egypt the first runner-up, will get $2.75 million (£2 million) for losing to Senegal while Cameroon $2.2 million (£1.6 million) for winning the third-place final.

AFCON 2021 Players Awards

Edouard Mendy SenegalBest Goalkeeper
Sadio Mane SenegalMost Valuable Player
Vincent Aboubakar CameroonTop Scorer(Golden Boot)

CAF also announce the overall best players at the tournament; this is also known as the African Best XI.


The Africa Cup of Nations kicked off with a group stage that saw the field of 24 teams before cutting down to 16. Each nation played three group-stage games, and they were ranked by points in this way: 3 for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for losses with tiebreakers in place for teams that were level on points.

The knockout stages started with the Round of 16 and ran all the way to the final with 30 minutes of extra time and penalty-kick shootouts employed in case of a draw after 90 minutes which eventually happened.



Referee ended a match before regulation time (Mali vs Tunisia)

The referee Janny Sikazwe of Zambia, ended the match between Mali and Tunisia twice. The referee blew his whistle for full-time with five minutes still left on the clock and again at a few seconds before the 90th minute.

Janny Sikazwe ended the match prematurely.

Ivorian goalkeeper dropped the ball (footballers are paid actor)

The Ivorian goalkeeper, Badra Ali Sangare, gifted Sierra Leone a late equalizer in stoppage time. Sangare landed badly while trying to save the ball, only to drop the ball in the path of a Sierra Leone player.

Badra Ali Sangare
Badra Ali Sangare Error

The goalkeeper was stretched-off, but it was not apparent immediately if he was severely injured or trying to save face. He made a return to the Ivorian team a few days later.


If you look closely at the state of the pitch, you can argue that Cameroon was not really prepared to host the continental event. The pitch was not pristine compared to what we saw in Egypt in 2019.

Sad events

Stampede at Olembe Stadium

On Monday night, January 24, a deadly stampede occurred in front of the newly built 60,000 seat capacity stadium located in Olembe, Yaoundé. The tragedy resulted in eight dead and 38 injured. According to Reuters, the stampede was caused when the panicked crowd of football supporters tried to squeeze through the narrow entrance of the stadium. They were all there to watch the match between Cameroon and Comoros.

Due to Covid 19 restrictions, the stadium was mandated to be nothing more than 80% capacity. This may have caused mass hysteria as people were seen climbing over the stadium’s fences to secure their seats. It was a sad and disheartening experience that CAF deliberated on cancelling the competition altogether. Well, they didn’t.



Before the opening of the African Football Championship, pro-independence rebels had threatened to attack the teams playing in Limbe and training in Buea. It was tense, with Anglophone separatists in the West and Boko Haram jihadists in the North of Cameroon.

However, no attacks were recorded on the teams. However, there was a shootout between gunmen and soldiers at Buea on January 12. Some people were injured, but thankfully, no loss of life was recorded.

Nigeria’s shocking exit

The Nigerian super eagles at the start of the tournament were the most promising team, conceding fewer goals than the numbers they dished out. Not only that, they played well to the admiration of many supporters home and abroad. Things quickly went south when the team crashed out in the Round of 16.


Being who they are, Nigerians blamed their President, Muhammadu Buhari, for the misfortune. The President called the team before the super eagles match with the Carthage of Eagles of Tunisia in Garoua. What seemed like a good luck wish turned into something else when they lost to Tunisia.

Final Note

The competition had its ups and downs, but it was an exciting watch. We got to see the two Liverpool stars, Egypt’s Mohammed Salah and Senegal’s Sadio Mané, battle it out for gold in the finals, although the Senegalese had the last laugh winning the AFCON title.

The AFCON 2021 competition was good for the underdogs (or lions). It was a fierce battle that brought a lot of victories; after all, who doesn’t look forward to progress?



How much do you know about the African Cup of Nations? Take our ultimate AFCON quiz to test your knowledge.

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Ngozi Nwaubani

Ngozi Nwaubani

She's usually found writing Sci-Fi and fun articles on entertainment and lifestyle.

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