Afcon 2021: Group A preview

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Algeria lift the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 2019Algeria are looking to defend the Africa Cup of Nations trophy they won in 2019

The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations gets under way in Cameroon on Sunday 9 January, having been delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, BBC Sport Africa runs the rule over Group A, which includes hosts Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Group A fixtures

Sunday 9 January: Cameroon v Burkina Faso, Ethiopia v Cape Verde

Thursday 13 January: Cameroon v Ethiopia, Cape Verde v Burkina Faso

Monday 17 January: Burkina Faso v Ethiopia, Cape Verde v Cameroon

Cameroon

Vincent Aboubakar in action for CameroonVincent Aboubakar scored the winner against Egypt as Cameroon won the Nations Cup in 2017
Appearance: 20thBest finish: Winners (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017)
Coach: Antonio ConceicaoCaptain: Vincent Aboubakar
Fifa ranking: 50Nickname: Indomitable Lions

Njie Enow (Head of sports, Cameroon Radio Television): Three years ago Cameroon exited the Nations Cup in the round of 16, and the ultimate goal for the hosts will be to scoop the continent's most coveted silverware for a sixth time.

Portuguese Antonio Conceicao has been in charge since September 2019, and adores controlling games from kick-off. Under him, Cameroon has reverted to a high-intensity game where the wing-backs are expected to defend and attack in equal measure.

The Indomitable Lions' forte is in midfield, where they're laced with talent that can dominate possession and dictate the tempo of the game. Napoli's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa looks the star man with his inherent aptitude to pick out passes in tight spaces and the energy he brings to the pitch.

Cameroon's attacking armada is well furnished with Bayern Munich's Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting a kingpin, while Karl Toko Ekambi (Lyon) has been given more responsibility.

Despite only returning to action in November after a lengthy suspension, Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana is undoubtedly first-choice keeper and his heroics during the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast have no doubt sealed his spot.

Burkina Faso

Aston Villa and Burkina Faso's Bertrand TraoreBurkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore returned for club side Aston Villa on 26 December after over two months out injured
Appearance: 12thBest finish: Runners-up (2013)
Coach: Kamou MaloCaptain: Issoufou Dayo
Fifa ranking: 60Nickname: The Stallions

Moussavou Billa (Sports journalist, Ouagadougou): Absent in 2019, Burkina Faso want to forget the last Nations Cup tournament in Egypt and have spared no effort.

Like their three opponents in Group A, Burkina Faso are well-placed to reach the round of 16, before surfing the rest of the configurations which will be presented during the finals.

Brought to the tournament by a young generation of players including Herve Koffi, Edmond Tapsoba, Issa Kabore, Bertrand Traore and Gustavo Sangare, the squad will do everything to have no regrets.

Apart from their quality, the Stallions will also hope for an improved mental approach - having brought in a psychologist earlier this year to help the team focus on achieving its goals.

Ethiopia

Ethiopa's national teamEthiopia have qualified for the Nations Cup for the first time since 2013
Appearance: 11thBest finish: Winners (1962)
Coach: Wubetu AbateCaptain: Getaneh Kebede
Fifa ranking: 137Nickname: Walia Ibex

Kaleb Moges (BBC Amharic journalist): After nine years away, Afcon 2021 is a great opportunity for coach Wubetu Abate and his squad to show what Ethiopia, one of the founding members of Caf, has to offer.

Abate is the mastermind behind Ethiopia's eye-catching one-touch football. Midfield maestro Shemelis Bekele and captain Getaneh Kebede lead the squad while young star Abubeker Nasir, the top scorer in the 2020-21 Ethiopian Premier League, is one to keep an eye on.

Wubetu was consistent in his style of play in the World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers with a 4-3-3-line up and Nasir, combined with Kebede and attacking midfielder Dawa Hotessa, might pose a danger for opponents.

Advancing to the round of 16 would be a big leap for Ethiopia, a team still shaping itself under Wubetu, but it will delight millions of Ethiopians in and outside of the country to watch their team play in the continent's flagship competition.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde squad in November 2021Cape Verde last appeared at the Nations Cup in 2015
Appearance: ThirdBest finish: Quarter-finals (2013)
Coach: BubistaCaptain: Ryan Mendes
Fifa ranking: 73Nickname: Blue Sharks

Lucio Antunes (former Cape Verde boss): Cape Verdean football transformed from 2013 onwards. We had our first experience at Afcon, which made our football known throughout Africa and in Europe too.

The football federation had a project and when we started, Cape Verde was 126th in the Fifa rankings and we went on to be 27th. We're proud of the work that the federation has accomplished until now.

I hope that everything goes well for our team. We have good players, although many are still young and have little experience in Afcon. Our coach is very smart, experienced, and knows African football well. The group is strong and we a good collective - organised defensively and with a powerful counter-attack.

Cameroon is the favourite team, and we and Burkina Faso will have to fight for a place in the next round. Ethiopia is the weakest team in the group but deserves our respect.

I believe that we will get through the group stage but depending on the opponents in the last 16, we can go a little further. I am confident.

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