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News, January 2022
Africa Cup of Nations Kicks off in Cameroon, Hosts Hope for Sixth Title, After Winning Game with Burkina Faso
January 10, 2022
Host Cameroon has high hopes for sixth title as Africa Cup of Nations 2022 kicks off
Fifty years after last hosting the Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon kick off the continental showpiece on Sunday targeting a sixth title while hoping the spectre of the coronavirus does not overshadow the tournament.
Cameroon, who play 2013 runners-up Burkina Faso in their opening Group A match at the vast new 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, know expectations are high for the Indomitable Lions.
However, they will have to measure up to the likes of reigning champions Algeria, the Senegal of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah's Egypt.
Cameroon was initially supposed to be the host nation in 2019, before being stripped of the tournament due to delays in its preparations, with Egypt taking over. The 33rd Cup of Nations was then postponed last year because of the pandemic.
The Central African country of 27 million people was therefore determined to press on with the competition amid reports last month that leading European clubs wanted it postponed again due to Covid concerns.
This time it does go ahead, and Cameroon coach Toni Conceicao is well aware of the pressure on his side.
"It's what they put on the table when I signed my contract: at least get to the final, do everything to win it," Conceicao told AFP.
"We feel that the people and history of Cameroon oblige us to do it. It sets the bar pretty high, but we're convinced we can reach these goals."
"We've got a big weight on our shoulders," added the Portuguese.
In the streets of Yaoundé, Cameroon, it is time to celebrate with the Africa Cup of Nations 2022 preparing to kick off. © Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP 02:22
African football officials have set down tough Covid-19 rules in a bid to prevent the competition becoming a super-spreader event, requiring teams to play even if just 11 players are available.
Gabon star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was forced to isolate in his hotel after testing positive on Thursday, while Senegal, Africa's top-ranked national team, travelled to Cameroon without three members of their squad for the same reason.
Senegal then had key defender Kalidou Koulibaly test positive shortly after their arrival.
Burkina Faso captain Bertrand Traore called the testing procedures a "scandal" after at least four squad members and coach Kamou Malo tested positive in the run-up to Sunday's opener.
"It's a scandal, we cannot be deprived of first team players 24 hours before the match," said Traore.
"The authorities must review the organisation."
Covid, though, is far from the only concern in a country dealing with a conflict in the English-speaking west.
Matches in Group F, featuring Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania and Gambia, are due to be played in Limbe, a coastal city close to Mount Cameroon which is also a hotspot of separatist unrest.
Jihadist raiders also pose a problem in the north, at least beyond the city of Garoua where Salah's Egypt and Nigeria will play group games.
It is because of the health crisis that organisers have capped crowd limits at 60 percent of capacity, or 80 percent when the hosts play.
Spectators must be vaccinated and have a negative test result, but only six percent of the adult population is inoculated.
Cameroon, though, is football mad and many fans will be desperate to attend games in a country that has only hosted the Cup of Nations once before, in 1972 when there were just eight participants.
However, the nation that gave the world the likes of Roger Milla and Samuel Eto'o -- the latter now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation -- no longer boasts the same level of stardust.
Comoros, Gambia debut
They have Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, but the real superstars of the continent will be elsewhere.
Senegal boast not just Liverpool forward Mane but also Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Holders Algeria, unbeaten in 33 competitive games, will be led by Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez, while Morocco have PSG full-back Achraf Hakimi and Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, amongst others.
Nigeria, meanwhile, cross the border without Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, or Watford's Emmanuel Dennis, whose club said they received notice of his call-up too late.
In any case this Cup of Nations is not just about the big names, as Gambia, ranked 148th in the world, and the Indian Ocean island state of the Comoros make their debuts.
Cameroon 2-1 Burkina Faso: Hosts survive scare to win Africa Cup of Nations opener as Vincent Aboubakar's quickfire double just before half-time earns comeback victory
Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in opening game of Africa Cup of Nations Vincent Aboubakar scored two penalties as Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 Burkina Faso had taken a shock lead courtesy of Gustavo Sangare
PUBLISHED: 10:00 EST, 9 January 2022
Host Cameroon came from behind with two penalties in the space of eight minutes at the end of the first half to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 Sunday in the opening game of the African Cup of Nations.
Captain Vincent Aboubakar scored both penalties, calmly slotting the first to the right side of the goal and the second to the left to complete a comeback that left home fans sighing with relief.
Cameroon had waited out a three-year delay to host this African Cup after being stripped of the 2019 tournament and then seeing its 2021 hosting delayed a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cameroon striker celebrates his second goal after putting his country in the lead
It seemed the wait wouldn't be worth it when Gustavo Sangare volleyed Burkina Faso into the lead in the 24th minute at Olembe Stadium in Yaounde.
He scored after Burkina Faso had a header cleared off the line and hit the crossbar in the same move.
But Burkina Faso lost the lead with two reckless pieces of defending at the end of the first half.
Bertrand Traore barged into Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa to give Cameroon its first penalty, which was only confirmed after referee Mustapha Ghorbal of Algeria consulted VAR.
Sangare managed to steer the ball home from a difficult angle as he scored in the 24th minute
VAR is being used in all games at the African Cup for the first time. It was used from the quarterfinals onwards at the last African Cup.
Soon after, Issoufou Dayo mistimed a sliding tackle to foul Nouhou Tolo and Aboubakar scored from the spot again three minutes into first-half injury time.
VAR was in the spotlight again in the second half when there was a long review to disallow a third goal for Cameroon for offside.
The African Cup officially started with a short opening ceremony a few hours earlier at Olembe Stadium. The continent's soccer showpiece will be played under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and amid a global surge in cases.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended the opening ceremony, as did 88-year-old Cameroon President Paul Biya, who has led the Central African country since 1982.
Cape Verde plays Ethiopia in the other Group A game on the opening day.
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