The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is finally here, with all eyes on the continent’s finest footballers following a year-long delay thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Host nation Cameroon kick off the competition with their Group A opener against Burkina Faso, before Ethiopia go up against Cape Verde.
Both fixtures take place at the sparkling Olembe Stadium in capital city Yaounde, as 24 nations begin their bids to seal the crown last claimed by Algeria in 2019.
Africa Cup of Nations: Full fixture schedule for this year’s competition
*All kick off times are in Central Africa Time.
Group A: Cameroon vs Burkina Faso
It’s been a long time coming thanks to the global Covid-19 pandemic, but host nation Cameroon will finally bring the curtain up on the Africa Cup of Nations against Burkina Faso on Sunday evening at the Olembe Stadium.
Modest crowd restrictions of 80% capacity means the Indomitable Lions should kick off the competition with their roar intact.
And the plan is to replicate their title-winning effort of 2017 when Vincent Aboubakar’s late strike sealed a fifth Afcon crown in Gabon.
It’s the likes of Ajax keeper Andre Onana and Bayern Munich’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting that are expected to push them on, while the Burkinabe will need Abdoul Tapsoba and Bertrand Traore to step up.
The Stallions were shock finalists in the 2013 edition held in South Africa and come into the delayed 2021 event in good shape, having pushed hard to so nearly seal a prized place at the Qatar World Cup later this year.
They made it through qualifying as Group B winners this time around, having failed to make reach the 2019 tournament in Egypt.
Kick off time: 18:00.
Group A: Ethiopia vs Cape Verde
It’s a battle between two old Africa Cup of Nations faces on Sunday night, as underdogs Ethiopia and Cape Verde meet at the Olembe Stadium.
The Blue Sharks make their third Afcon appearance and are on the hunt to match their 2013 debut, when they reached the quarter-finals in South Africa.
Recent form suggests the omens are good, with the island nation having pushed mighty Nigeria all the way in World Cup qualifying.
They finished comfortable runners-up in Cup of Nations qualifying, too, where they not only went unbeaten but even notched a 3-1 win over pool rivals Cameroon.
Plenty has changed since 1962 Afcon champions Ethiopia last scaled the dizzy heights of footballing success.
The Walias won a four-team event on home turf in Addis Ababa 60 years ago but come into this one as the second-lowest Fifa ranked nation in the tournament.
They pinched a place in Cameroon thanks to Madagascar’s failure to beat Niger in the last round of action in Group K of qualifying.
Kick off time: 21:00.
Africa Cup of Nations predictions for 9 January
Prediction methodology explained: The expected win percentage is based off publicly available odds. For example, if a team’s odds are 2.30, the expected chance of winning is 43%. If the odds are 1.62 the expected chance of winning is 62% and so on. These are accurate at the time of writing but are subject to change. Where there is no value listed, the odds were not available at the time of writing.