Africa Cup of Nations update issued with ‘urgent action required’ before tournament start

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The CAF Executive Committee have revealed they have made some observations to host nation Cameroon that require urgent attention ahead of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations amid speculation the tournament could be postponed or cancelled. The Organising Committee delegation recently travelled to the Central African country to inspect the facilities ahead of the showpiece and there was an element of concern just over two months before the January 9 start date.

After Egypt were handed the chance to stage the 2019 competition, Cameroon were finally due to host the 2021 tournament earlier this year before the COVID-19 crisis saw the spectacle delayed.

Qualifiers were postponed and then rescheduled while restrictions and travel bans across Africa threatened to jeopardise Cameroon’s time in the spotlight once again.

But as of now the likes of Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez, Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy plus Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey are expected to join up with their countries after their club’s respective fixtures on Boxing Day.

Widespread concern – or in some cases, optimism – has emerged in the past day as to whether the tournament is ready to go ahead in January as planned, in light of rumours on social media.

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Yet while the CAF Executive Committee have confirmed they will continue to make checks on Cameroon in the next few weeks following a series of issues that ‘require urgent attention’, the tournament looks likely to go ahead barring any late hiccups.

The CAF statement released on Monday read: “The Executive Committee noted the report and the progress made so far. The EXCO emphasised the need to make follow-ups with the Local Organising Committee on the areas that still need some urgent attention ahead of the kick-off on 09 January 2022.

“On the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations and COVID-19 situation and preparations for supporters, the Executive Committee raised some sanitary matters that will be part of ongoing discussions between CAF and Cameroon government.

“The Executive Committee also ratified the signing of the Agreement for the Organising Association Agreement (OAA) of the AFCON with the host nation, Cameroon last weekend.”

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The CAF have also confirmed that they have decided to increase the number of additional players to five for the upcoming finals.

It means nations will now be able to name a squad of 28 players in order to maximise rotation and rest.

There will still only be three substitutions allowed though for the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, that is due to last 27 days.

Liverpool are reportedly planning to speak to Egypt, Senegal and Guinea in a bid to convince the three countries to minimise their use of Salah, Mane and Keita where possible.

The three Reds stars and their fellow Premier League colleagues could miss up to seven matches while away with their countries.

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During that time there are some crucial matches in the Premier League title race too as Chelsea face both Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.

Back in January 2020, Kop boss Jurgen Klopp made it clear he was incensed by the decision to move the Africa Cup of Nations back to January after a summer tournament in 2019.

He said: “I like the competition… [but] the African Cup of Nations going back to January is, for us, a catastrophe.

“On top of that, we have absolutely no power so if we did say, ‘We don’t let him go’, the player is suspended.

“How is that possible that the company who pays the player cannot decide that the player has to stay or not?”

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