AFCON, Africa's biggest continental competition, returns for the 2022 edition in the second week of January. This will be the 33rd edition of the biennial tournament where 24 teams will compete for continental glory.
There is no Group of Death in this edition of the competition, hosted by Cameroon. So teams like Egypt, Senegal and reigning champions Algeria are expected to make it into the knockout stage with ease.
As the stage is set for four weeks of exciting international football in Africa, here we take a look at the five favorites to lift AFCON 2022.
Cameroon, the host nation for AFCON 2022, are one of the most successful African football teams of all time with five international trophies. All of them have come in this competition. They last laid their hands on the trophy in 2017, defeating Egypt 2-1 in the final. However, they couldn't make it past the Round of 16 in the previous edition in 2019.
Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Olympique Lyon winger Karl Toko-Ekambi are headlining a 28-man squad announced for the tournament.
They have been drawn with Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde in Group A. So they are expected to face no problem in making it into the knockout stage of the competition.
They are ranked 50th in FIFA rankings at the moment. They enjoyed a great FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign, losing just one of their six second-round fixtures. Home advantage could also prove to be a major factor in their AFCON 2022 campaign.
It is impossible to leave seven-time champions Egypt off the list of favorites to win the competition. All eyes will be on Mo Salah, who has enjoyed a great spell with Liverpool this year. If he can replicate the form with the national side, he might be able to help them to their first triumph at AFCON since 2010.
They endured an early exit in the previous edition of the competition, suffering a 1-0 loss to South Africa in their Round of 16 fixture. They made it all the way to the final in AFCON 2017 only to lose to Cameroon, who came back from behind to record a 2-1 win.
Morocco head into the AFCON 2022 in terrific form. They maintained a 100% record in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification second-round fixture. They have suffered just one loss in all competitive competitions in 2021. They have kept 12 clean sheets this year and thanks to a strong squad are one of the teams to watch out for.
Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss, Achraf Hakimi and Yassine Bounou are some of the key players for The Atlas Lions. Morocco last won the competition in 1976 and have made it into the knockout stage in their last two AFCON campaigns.
They were beaten in their Round of 16 fixture by lowly Benin on penalties in 2019 and will be hoping for a better outing here. With Ghana, Comoros and Gabon in Group C alongside Morocco, they should make it into the knockout stage with ease.
Senegal, the top-ranked African team in the latest FIFA rankings, will be hoping that 2022 is the year for them at AFCON. They had to suffer heartbreak in the 2019 edition after losing 1-0 to Algeria in the title decider.
The Lions of Teranga were unbeaten in their qualification campaign. They also enjoyed great outings in the FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers, dropping points just once in six games.
They have one of the strongest squads in the competition. Their 27-man squad includes Edouard Mendy, Sadio Mane, Chiekhou Kouyate, Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Reigning champions Algeria are strong favorites to retain their title at AFCON 2022 as they have played some great football this year. They were the top-scoring side in the AFCON qualification campaign, finding the back of the net 19 times in six games.
They were also the top-scoring side in the FIFA World Cup second-round qualifiers with 25 goals in six games. They also remained unbeaten in those outings. Algeria also won the FIFA Arab Cup last week, defeating Tunisia 2-0 in the final.
Riyad Mahrez will captain the squad against Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone in Group E. Given their great form, they are expected to face no problems in making it into the knockout stage.