Liverpool trio await decision with mid-season 2022 AFCON ‘in doubt’

The upcoming Africa Cup of Nations has been thrown into doubt following the delay of the draw, which could impact plans for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

As it stands, the AFCON is set to be held in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6 next year, which would see Salah, Mane and Keita all depart Liverpool mid-season.

Understandably, the prospect of two first-choice starters and a useful squad option being absent for over a month of the campaign is a big concern for Jurgen Klopp.

But the future of the tournament has been thrown into doubt, according to Eurosport, with the group stage draw having now been postponed indefinitely.

The draw was set to be held on June 25, but organisers CAF have announced that this has been pushed back for “logistical reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

CAF add that “a new date will be announced in due course,” with talks ongoing with the Cameroon government to ensure the AFCON will be “a successful event and a great celebration of African football.”

However, Eurosport’s Ibrahim Mustapha describes the tournament as being “in doubt,” citing an ongoing civil war in Cameroon which has raised questions over its safety as host nation.

Mohamed Salah of Egypt during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 21 June 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix ( Samuel Shivambu/Sports Inc/PA Images)

The AFCON has already been pushed back from this summer with concerns over the climate in Cameroon, while qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup – initially set to take place this month – have been moved to November due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the African Women’s Cup of Nations, which was due to take place in Congo over November and December of last year, was cancelled, and qualifiers for the 2022 tournament postponed to the start of next year.

The safety of those involved in the AFCON will be made a priority, and hypothetically the tournament could be moved to a new host nation if Cameroon is deemed unsuitable.

Brazil has been appointed as a last-minute host for this summer’s Copa America due to COVID-19 issues in Argentina, though there remain doubts over whether the tournament will take place as planned.

It is unlikely that the AFCON will be cancelled entirely, but Liverpool and their Egypt, Senegal and Guinea internationals will await the decision with a keen interest.