Why the African Cup of Nations is the Best Tournament You Aren’t Watching

When Marco Ilaimaharitra of Madagascar scored the game-winning goal in the 76th minute in a 1-0 win over Burundi, things in Group B of the African Cup of Nations got complicated. Very, very complicated. Nigeria has six points and will be playing Madagascar, who have four points after the win against Burundi. Guinea has one point and will be playing Burundi, who have zero points. Burundi has officially been knocked out, and Nigeria has clinched a spot, but Madagascar could either finish first, second or third.

A finish in third, where Guinea is now, would knock Madagascar out. If Madagascar tie, they finish second and will play the winner of Group A, expected to be Egypt. If they win, Nigeria is second and will most likely play Egypt, and Madagascar is first and will play the runner-up of Group A, expected to be Uganda. However, if Nigeria win, and Guinea win, Guinea takes Madagascar’s place in second.  The reason Group B doesn’t know who they will be playing in Group A? Because Group A has the exact same situation. Just sub Egypt for Nigeria, Uganda for Madagascar, Zimbabwe for Guinea, and DR Congo for Burundi.

The Africa Cup of Nations, or AFCON for short, has all the things the World Cup has and more. The atmosphere. The ridiculously warm temperatures. The French players. (See: Moroccan National Team). And, the firepower. AFCON sees stars such as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Riyad Mahrez. AFCON also has the same level of controversy with the host country,  seeing as Cameroon was supposed to host, spent a massive budget on building and fixing stadiums, and 5 months before the start of the tournament, Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided that Cameroon was not ready to host and Egypt would instead. So now, the host city is Cairo instead of Yaounde. And what would a tournament be without Senegal massively underperforming, Algeria showing potential in flashes, and Kevin-Prince Boateng not playing for Ghana?

(And if you love music, make sure to watch Morocco play, to see the famous Bono in goal! Haha!)

The most important reason by far, though, is the chance to see less well-known soccer teams play. South Africa had a decent World Cup nine years ago, but not much since then. That might change due to 25-year old Union Saint-Gilloise sensation Percy Tau, who is expected to soon have his loan ended and play in the Premier League with Brighton & Hove Albion. Or Ivory Coast, who have suffered since the losses of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, but now have Wilfried Bony, Wilfried Zaha and Serge Aurier. Or Ghana, who haven’t played well since 2014, and always miss the afore-mentioned Kevin-Prince Boateng, but now have Andre Ayew and Thomas Partey. Kenya now has Victor Wanyama. Mali has Kalifa Coulibaly. The point is, many countries fly under-the-radar, but at AFCON you can see the players shine.

Thank you for reading! Later, I hope to have a preview of the Women’s World Cup, France – USA. As always, enjoy watching soccer!