It has been six decades since Ethiopia won its first and only African Cup of Nations (AFCON) on home soil in 1962. The national team last took part in the competition in 2013 after a 31-year hiatus, where it was unable to proceed to the group stage. As the Walias head to Cameron for the 33rd edition of AFCON courtesy of a run in which they beat the likes of African heavyweights Ivory Coast, manager Wubetu Abate says he and his players are aiming to advance to progress as far as they can. Ethiopia has been drawn in a group featuring hosts Cameron, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, with whom they will be playing its opening match on January 9.
The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) showdown is set to kick-off on January 9, 2022 in Cameroon, with 24 teams taking part in the tournament. Ethiopia’s national team a.k.a Walias will face Cape Verde in their group opener following the fixtures between Cameroon and Burkina Faso.
Various African national teams have been arriving in the capital of Cameroon for the tournament with the Ethiopian national team among the first to arrive ten days before the start date. The Walias arrived in Cameroon with 28 players on Sunday, December 26, 2021.
In addition to gymnastic, field training sessions, and friendly matches, lessons were set aside for all members of the team to practice the Ethiopian national anthem. All players memorized the lyrics.
Furthermore, experts from the Confederation of African Football (CAF) discussed with the national team regarding media use, game rules, VAR referee issues and new technologies.
During their preparations, the Walias played one of two friendly matches against Sudan and Morocco. Walias faced Sudan and came out victorious in a 3-1 win, while their second game against Morocco could not be fulfilled due to Sundays match against Cape Verde.
Following their preparations in Cameroon, Coach Wubetu Abate stated that he is aiming to qualify for the next stage and progress as far as possible.
“We are in a tough group including hosts Cameroon. We are coming to the tournament aiming to qualify to next stage and to go as far as we can. Almost 99 percent of our squad is based in the local league. However, most of them are young and promising,” Wubetu told CAF online.
Regarding Sunday’s match, all the players have tested negative for COVID-19. However, they would still have to return a negative COVID-19 test on Saturday before their first match against Cape Verde kicks off.
Elsewhere CAF online identified three Ethiopian players to watch in this tournament. Forwards Getaneh Kebede and Abubeker Nassir and midfielder Surafel Dagnache were the names listed to watch.
Getaneh, who was part of Ethiopia’s team that last participated at the 2013 AFCON in South Africa, told CAF online that he is aware of the task ahead. Midfielder Shemeles Bekele and goalkeeper Jemal Tasew are among the players to have taken part at the 2013 AFCON alongside Getaneh.
“As strikers, we are always expected to score goals. Playing at the AFCON is very important and as a striker I am eager to score goals that will lead my team to the next stage.” Getaneh said.
Getaneh made it clear that they managed to beat strong sides like Ivory Coast during the AFCON qualifiers and can still beat any team in the competition. Getaneh was Ethiopia’s top scorer in the AFCON qualifiers with three goals, scoring in the 3-0 win against Niger and the 4-0 humbling of Madagascar at Bahir Dar stadium. He also netted the lone goal in the away defeat to Ivory Coast.
Ethiopia is placed in group A alongside Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and hosts Cameroon. Walias will take on Cameroon on January 13 and Burkina Faso on January 17, 2022 in Bafoussam stadium.
Ethiopia and AFCON
Ethiopia was one of three teams along with Egypt and Sudan to participate in the inaugural AFCON in 1957. Ethiopia managed to win the competition in 1962, while it was also the host. In its eleven appearances, Ethiopia was champion in 1962, runner-up in 1957, third in 1959, and fourth in 1963 and 1968.
Nevertheless, success has been elusive since the end of the 1960s. Under Coach Sewnet Bishaw, the Walias qualified for the 2013 AFCON after a 31-year absence. Since 2013, Walias have not been able to qualify for the competition in the last nine years. This year’s tournament will take place from January 9 to February 6, 2022, which was originally scheduled to be played from June to July 2021.
However, CAF announced on January 2020 that due to unfavorable climatic conditions during this period, the tournament would take place from January to February 2022.
A total of 24 teams are set to compete in the final tournament. Only the hosts received automatic qualification spot, with the other 23 team’s qualifying through a qualification tournament.
The 24 teams have been drawn into six groups of four teams each with the teams in each group playing a single round robin. Following the group stage, the top two teams from each group and the four highest ranked third-placed teams will advance to the round of 16.
“I am eager to score goals.”
“We are in a tough group.”
Coach Wubetu Abate