The National Cup starts under the COVID cloud - Sports1
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The National Cup starts under the COVID cloud

The African Cup of Nations will open in Cameroon on Sunday. The background is controversial about player recruitment, game time, host country preparations, and the possibility of widespread COVID-19 infection.

However, it is not clear who is likely to be crowned the Continental Champions after the final on February 6th, as the numerous potential winners make the tournament likely to maintain its tradition of rarely delivering in form.

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Algeria is defending its title and entering the championship with long-term undefeated results, including a victory in the last tournament in Egypt in 2019.

Under the leadership of Mahrez of Manchester City, Algeria has rarely seen tensions in the past 24 months, but the harshness of the game, coupled with the difficult conditions in Cameroon, will bring severe tests.

Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are other perennial competitors but disappointing North African countries in recent editions. Especially Morocco, which recently participated in high-profile tournaments, but proved unable to meet their requirements.

West African giants Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria are all past winners and have high hopes, but they have not been convincing lately.

Nigeria fired its coach Gnotrol last month. Although it won the World Cup qualifier group, it was not satisfied with the state.

Host Cameroon is less convincing, but their home win over the Ivorian team in the World Cup qualifiers in November greatly boosted morale, and now the burden of expectations on their shoulders is weighed on their shoulders.

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This makes Senegal the team with the best qualifications. They finished runner-up in 2019 and have since strengthened the team’s lineup, persuading several French-born players of Senegalese descent to join their team.

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All competitors want to avoid any COVID-19 outbreak, which may affect their chances.

In the past two weeks, preparations in most countries have been hit by players testing positive and having to go into quarantine.

The match in Senegal on Wednesday was postponed due to three positive cases, and the Cape Verde Islands had a staggering 21 positive cases in the pre-match training camp.

Ready for the game

The number of teams in this competition has increased from 23 to 28 to deal with the potential impact of the new coronavirus.

The team must also contend with inferior hotels and training facilities. Cameroon is nervous due to weak infrastructure and scrambled to prepare before kick-off on Sunday.

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The late preparations prompted the African Football Federation Executive Committee to convene an emergency meeting last month to consider canceling the game.

After an urgent business trip to seek assurances from the Cameroonian government, CAF Chairman Patrice Motsepe took a gamble, hoping to avoid any major disasters, and hoping that football will be the focus of attention when the operation begins.

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