By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
The 2021 TotalEnergies African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finally kicks off and takes centre stage after a year-long delay due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite negativity once again being unfairly leveled at the tournament by some elite-level European-based managers due to player unavailability, the world’s second-biggest continent is set to put on a show for the 33rd edition of the competition.
One nation expected to fight their way through to the latter stages is Cameroon, which host the AFCON for the first time in 50 years.
The five-time winners enter as fourth-favorites to hoist the trophy this time around according to a plethora of bookmakers, and it’s not difficult to see why with a glance towards their strong squad.
Their impressive record through AFCON qualification (three wins, two draws, and a defeat) will also raise expectations around the war-torn country.
Heading into this competition on the back of four straight competitive victories, Cameroon has looked incredibly solid in defence.
That’s because they have managed to keep three clean sheets across that four-game stint and have conceded just 0.43 goals on average across their last seven competitive internationals (five wins, a draw, and a defeat).
This opening fixture is unlikely to prove plain-sailing for the hosts though, as Burkina Faso makes the relatively short trip east for this clash in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde. The visitors arrive as FIFA’s 60th best-ranked nation – just ten spots below the hosts (50) and will be looking to go a game further than their third-placed finish at the 2017 AFCON.
Their preparation for this edition couldn’t have gone much better, after losing just one competitive outing since March 2019 (nine wins and eight draws) and keeping 11 clean sheets in the process.
The last head to head also came during that run, a 0-0 stalemate that made it three competition draws in a row versus Cameroon.
Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar netted three times during the qualification, though he’s only scored once in eight prior AFCON finals appearances.
Burkina Faso forward, Bertrand Traore scored in the last AFCON qualification game, and Burkina Faso are unbeaten across his six previous competitive goalscoring matches (five wins and a draw).
Burkina Faso has scored two or more goals in six of their last seven competitive victories.
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