1. The Number 11 Fiesta
By hosting the 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations (Afcon), Cameroon becomes the 11th country to host the African football showpiece on more than one occasion.
A look at the countries making their Afcon debuts in Cameroon sees the number 11, or its multiples, continue to be a prominent feature in the numbers defining Afcon 2021.
The first time appearances of Comoros and Gambia bring the total number of countries that have appeared at Afcon to 44. The number 11 would have remained in the picture had Zanzibar not merged with Tanganyika in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Zanzibar counts among the 55 countries that have played an Afcon qualifier match but, their merger with Tanganyika means that they are not on the list of countries that have never qualified for Afcon.
Zanzibar’s inclusion would have brought the number of countries that have never appeared at Afcon to 11 instead of the current 10.
2. Gambia completes the set
Gambia’s debut at Afcon 2021 means that all 16 West African countries have appeared at the Afcon at least once. The only other region boasting a similar record is North Africa, where all five members have appeared at the African football showpiece at least thrice.
Interestingly, Gambia qualified for this edition on the back of 16 failed qualification attempts. The only other country with more failed qualifying attempts before an Afcon debut appearance is Madagascar, who appeared at Afcon 2019 on the 19th time of trying.
Among countries that are yet to debut at Afcon, Lesotho’s current record of 15 failed qualification attempts puts them at risk of surpassing Gambia’s and Madagascar’s unwanted records if they do not qualify for the next edition.
3. Stars align for first-time winners
History shows that Afcon 2021 may produce a first-time winner or, at the very least, a first-time finalist if two factors remain constant.
First, hosting the tournament in 2022 aligns the stars for those who have never won the competition or played in an Afcon final. Every Afcon tournament held in a year ending in two has produced a first-time winner or a first-time finalist.
• 1962 - Ghana (winner)
• 1972 - Congo-Brazzaville (winner) and Mali (finalist)
• 1982 - Libya (finalist)
• 1992 - Ivory Coast (winner)
• 2002 - Senegal (finalist)
• 2012 - Zambia (winner)
The second factor is even more fascinating. The first five countries to win the Afcon for a second time were succeeded as champions by a first-time winner. Cameroon ruined this pattern in 2017 when they succeeded Ivory Coast as champions.
Defending champions Algeria won their second Afcon title in the last edition. So, barring a party pooper in the form of Cameroon in 2017, Afcon 2022 should give us a 15th different winner of the Afcon from the pool of 14 countries that have won the tournament.