Afcon 2021: Fixtures, dates, teams, how to watch and star players

Cameroon stage 33rd edition of tournament, starting on Sunday

Egypt captain Mohamed Salah is aiming to lead his national team to an eighth Afcon title in Cameroon. Reuters

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway this month as 24 teams vie to become the kings of the continent. Here is everything you need to know about the 33rd edition of Afcon.

What is the Africa Cup of Nations?

Afcon is a biennial international football tournament involving the national teams of Africa. It is organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

When is the Afcon 2021?

The latest edition of the tournament begins on Sunday, January 9 with the final scheduled for February 6.

Afcon 2021 has twice been rescheduled; the original dates of June-July 2021 were scrapped due to what CAF called "unfavourable climatic conditions", before the rearranged earlier slot of January-February 2021 was postponed because of the pandemic.

Where is Afcon 2021?

The tournament will be played in Cameroon. The hosts are four-time Afcon champions having most recently won the title in 2017.

Which teams are playing at Afcon 2021?

There are 24 teams competing at the tournament, separated into six groups of four. The groups are as follows:

Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia

Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi

Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Gabon, Comoros

Group D: Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau

Group E: Algeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea

Group F: Tunisia, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania

The top two teams from each group, along with the best four third-placed teams will advance to the last 16 knockout stage.

Senegal's forward Sadio Mane drives the ball during the 2019 African Cup of Nations Group A qualification football match between Senegal and Madagascar in Thies, on March 23, 2019. / AFP / SEYLLOU

Who are some of the star players at Afcon 2021?

Afcon 2021 will see many of the world's best footballers competing in Cameroon. The tournament hosts have Ajax No 1 Andre Onana between the sticks and Napoli's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa patrolling the midfield, while Group A rivals Burkina Faso's attack will be led by Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore.

In Group B, Senegal have several Europe-based stars in their squad, including Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye, and Liverpool forward Sadio Mane. Group rivals Guinea boast another Liverpool player in Naby Keita.

Group C top seeds Morocco are captained by Wolves defender Romain Saiss, while Ghana have Ayew brothers Andre and Jordan in their team. Gabon, meanwhile, are led by exiled Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Over in Group D, Egypt have arguably the best player in the tournament in their line-up as Liverpool's Mohamed Salah aims to lead his nation to an eighth Afcon title. However, they face in the group a strong Nigeria side with the likes of Leicester City pair Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi.

Defending champions Algeria headline Group E and can call upon Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez, Lyon striker Islam Slimani, AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer, and Galatasaray winger Sofiane Feghouli. Algeria face a tough challenge to top the group from a stacked Ivory Coast squad, which includes Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, Burnley forward Maxwel Cornet, Ajax striker Sébastien Haller, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, and Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe.

Group E top seeds Tunisia boast one of the most exciting young talents in the tournament in Manchester United midfielder Hannibal Mejbri, who will go up against Mali's RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara.

epa07717602 Algeria's Riyad Mahrez  (C) celebrates scoring the winning goal with his team during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Semi final soccer match between Algeria and Nigeria in Cairo Stadium in Cairo, Egypt, 14 July 2019.  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

What is the Afcon 2021 schedule?

Here is the full group schedule for Afcon 2021. All kick-off times UAE (+4 GMT).

Group stage round 1: Sunday, January 9

8pm: Cameroon v Burkina Faso / 11pm: Ethiopia v Cape Verde

Monday, January 10

5pm: Senegal v Zimbabwe / 8pm: Guinea v Malawi / 8pm: Morocco v Ghana / 11pm: Comoros v Gabon

Tuesday, January 11

5pm: Alergia v Sierra Leone / 8pm: Egypt v Nigeria / 11pm: Sudan v Guinea-Bissau

Wednesday, January 12

5pm: Tunisia v Mali / 8pm: Mauritania v Gambia / 11pm: Equatorial Guinea v Ivory Coast

Group stage round 2: Thursday, January 13

8pm: Cameroon v Ethiopia / 11pm: Cape Verde v Burkina Faso

Friday, January 14

5pm: Senegal v Guinea / 8pm: Malawi v Zimbabwe / 8pm: Morocco v Comoros / 11pm: Gabon v Ghana

Saturday, January 15

8pm: Nigeria v Sudan / 11pm: Guinea-Bissau v Egypt

Saturday, January 16

5pm: Gambia v Mali / 8pm: Tunisia v Mauritania / 8pm: Ivory Coast v Sierra Leone / 11pm: Algeria v Equatorial Guinea

Group stage round 3: Friday, January 17

8pm: Burkina Faso v Ethiopia / Cameroon v Cape Verde

Saturday, January 18

8pm: Malawi v Senegal / Zimbabwe v Guinea / 11pm: Gabon v Morocco / Ghana v Comoros

Sunday, January 19

11pm: Guinea-Bissau v Nigeria / Egypt v Sudan

Monday, January 20

8pm: Sierra Leone v Equatorial Guinea / Ivory Coast v Algeria / 11pm: Gambia v Tunisia / Mali v Mauritania

Round of 16: January 23-26

TBC

Quarter-finals: January 29-30

TBC

Semi-finals: February 2-3

TBC

Third-place playoff: February 6

TBC

Final: February 6

TBC

How to watch Afcon 2021?

Afcon 2021 matches will be broadcast live on beIN Sports HD.

Updated: January 10th 2022, 5:31 AM