Twenty-four teams will once again compete to get their hands on the most prestigious trophy in African football when the 2021 AFCON starts in Cameroon in January 2022.
Majority of the teams are familiar with the terrain, they have lifted the trophy, some have been so close yet so far away while a lot others have only made up the numbers.
While some still hope for an AFCON appearance, some have scaled the barrier and recorded their presence among the 24, denying some others who are regulars.
The AFCON Newcomers With Hopes of Mega Results
When the number of participants at the AFCON was improved from 16 to 24 in 2017, some teams had the chance to make an appearance on Africa’s biggest stage even if the FIFA World Cup remains far away.
Six teams have made their debut since then but the latest of them are the two teams who will be filing out at an AFCON for the first time in January 2022.
Guinea Bissau were the solo debutante in 2017 and has been ever present since then including AFCON2021 where they have been grouped with Nigeria, Egypt and Sudan.
However, in 2019 Burundi, Madagascar and Mauritania were the debutantes with Madagascar getting out of their group which had their fellow debutante Burundi, three-time winners Nigeria and Guinea.
Meanwhile, for the 2021 AFCON, Comoros and The Gambia are the newcomers who may be expecting the baptism of goals.
The Gambia is finally getting it’s success at the youth level rewarded after getting in the mix of the 24 teams for the 2021 AFCON.
One FIFA u20 world cup appearance in 2007 and three FIFA U17 World Cup appearances in 1991, 2005 and 2009 have finally paid off for the West Africans.
While the country’s efforts at the youth level is relative and far in-between, it’s still gives the efforts of the Gambian a good push for an AFCON appearance.
Pitted in a qualification group that had AFCON regulars like Gabon, Angola and DR Congo, there must have been optimism but the task was never easy.
Gambia topped the group with 10 points ahead of Gabon who finished second while Angola who hosted in 2010 and has 8 AFCON appearances.
Meanwhile, two-time champions DR Congo finished third place in 2015 and has had multiple appearances fell short.
However, the margin was slim with 1 point separating Gambia, Gabon and DR Congo with the Gambians showing intents with the first game in Angola with a 3-1 win in Luanda.
This followed a brace 2-2 draw with DR Congo in Gambia before a loss away at Gabon was remedied with a win over the Gabonese in Gambia.
Another home win against Angola was enough despite losing to DR Congo in their final game.
Meanwhile, their bravery will be tested in group C by Tunisia, Mali and Mauritania.
Unlike Gambia, Comoros didn’t have any presence at any world cup or previous youth tournaments experience.
However, their participation route is also long and treacherous with lengthy preliminary routes before the proper group stage qualification round.
For the 2019 AFCON qualification, Comoros were rooted to qualification group that had Morocco, Cameroon and Malawi.
2017 had them in group with Burkina Faso, Uganda and Botswana but their 2021 qualification group was not the easiest with Egypt, Kenya and Togo in the group.
However, after topping more experienced AFCON campaigners like Togo and Kenya in qualification, they should expect Morocco, Ghana and Gabon will be more difficult at the competition proper.
Meanwhile, these Ten teams are yet to qualify for AFCON finals , Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Eswatini, Lesotho,São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan.