Five reasons to get excited about AFCON 2022 including top stars like Salah & Mendy on show and FREE to watch in the UKJanuary 9, 2022
THE 2022 Africa Cup of Nations kicks-off today and promises to be a spectacular month of football.
The tournament has sparked controversy in England with a host of Premier League managers lashing out.
Jurgen Klopp was believed to have 'disrespected' the upcoming competition over his frustration at losing three key players, despite his squad already being stretched by injuries, Covid and a crowded schedule.
And while AFCON may have been shrouded in controversy after finally being given the green light to go ahead, there are many things to be excited about.
Check out five reasons we think you should be tuning in…
1. SEA OF STARS
FIRST and foremost, the quality on show is going to be simply ludicrous.
Mohamed Salah has every right to believe he is the best player on the planet right now – and he will be fighting for Egypt for the tournament, hosted by Cameroon.
Just look at his Liverpool team-mates, too – with Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Naby Keita (Guinea) also featuring at AFCON.
Edouard Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Thomas Partey, Wilfried Zaha and Wilfred Ndidi are just a handful of Premier League stars also heading to Cameroon.
Achraf Hakimi, Kalidou Koulibaly, Andre Onana and goal-mad Sebastien Haller will also be on show.
With this kind of star quality, why would you NOT want to watch?
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2. WONDERKIDS WATCH
EVERYONE loves to see a young prospect shine on the biggest stage – whether it's for club or country.
And AFCON will see a hatful of talented youngsters strut their stuff.
With many still fighting to start for their clubs, the likes of Manchester United whiz Hannibal Mejbri and Tottenham's Pape Matar Sarr will have a point to prove.
So too will RB Leipzig star Ilaix Moriba, who's struggled to live up to the hype after bursting on to the scene at Barcelona and joining RB Leipzig.
Manchester City youngster Issa Kabore is set for big minutes, too.
Of course, there will always be wildcards.
In 2015, a relatively-unknown Espanyol defender turned the heads of Europe's biggest clubs with some scintillating performances for Ivory Coast.
That 20-year-old was Eric Bailly, who has since moved to Villarreal and Man Utd, with his stellar showing at AFCON his launch-pad to the big time.
3. IT'S ANYONE'S GAME
MOST tournaments have their clear favourites.
The Euros have the likes of France and Italy, while the hugely-popular Copa America has Brazil and Argentina.
But what's great about AFCON is how level the playing field is.
Since Egypt dominated with three straight victories between 2006 and 2010, no nation has won the competition more than once.
Zambia stunned Ivory Coast on penalties in 2012, while Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Algeria have all lifted the trophy since then.
This time around, Senegal are the early favourites – but it's marginal with Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Morocco, Nigeria and Ghana all close behind.
That lack of a clear favourite – combined with the tournament's track record of a surprise package or two making a deep run – makes it a riveting watch from first kick to last.
4. GET THE TELE ON
SO here's the cherry on top… all 52 matches – from the opening group stage game to the final – are live on TV.
Sky Sports will be showing every match live, with the BBC showing ten games – including two quarter-finals, both semi-finals and the final itself.
What that means is, as well as the Premier League, Carabao Cup, FA Cup and other domestic competitions, we've got a solid month of AFCON action to entertain us.
The tournament kicks off on January 9 and ends with the final on February 6.
Better yet, all matches are extremely UK-friendly – with matches starting at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm.
And by the time it's over, we're straight into the Champions League last 16 ties.
5. PURE PASSION
DURING the first lockdown, we all happily tuned in to watch any game possible.
You know the type, drab affairs played in front of zero fans with the result meaning absolutely nothing…
Well, AFCON is a world away from that. Every match boasts a carnival atmosphere.
Nearly one million fans were in attendance across all matches in 2019, with more than 100 goals on display too.
Combine passionate fans with superstar players and you can be guaranteed of a real treat.
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