Algeria vs. Sierra Leone
Tuesday, 8 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
Much of the world’s attention for this Africa Cup of Nations game will be focused on Algeria’s stars from big European clubs: Manchester City’s Riyadh Mahrez, Lyon’s Islam Slimani, AC Milan’s Ismaël Bennacer and Galatasaray’s Sofiane Feghouli. But in the United States, a few fans will tune in to see if some MLS alumni play.
Sierra Leone is led by Kei Kamara, who played for eight teams across the league from 2006-20 and won a U.S. Open Cup with Kansas City in 2012. The Leone Stars’ squad also includes forward Augustine Williams, who played for the Los Angeles Galaxy and three teams in the second-tier USL Championship.
Algeria’s squad includes — yep, you guessed it — former Union goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi, who just starred for Les Fennecs in their triumph at the FIFA Arab Cup last month. The 35-year-old is the most-experienced goalkeeper on Algeria’s AFCON squad with 83 caps, and No. 2 netminder Alexandre Oukidja has just six.
Nigeria vs. Egypt
Tuesday, 11 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
This is one of the most-anticipated games of the AFCON group stage, with many familiar names expected to be on the field. Nigeria’s squad is headlined by Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi, and Everton’s Alex Iwobi. Egypt is led by Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and Liverpool superstar Mo Salah.
Sudan vs. Guinea-Bassau
Tuesday, 2 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
As you read in the last Soccer on TV column, at the start of the Cup of Nations there were five current MLS players in the tournament. On Monday, the number grew to six. FC Dallas signed Guinea-Bassau defender Nanu — his full name is Eulânio Ângelo Chipela Gomes — on a loan through the end of the year from big Portuguese club FC Porto. The deal includes a purchase option at the end.
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
Wednesday, 2 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+)
It’s the Spanish SuperCup semifinals, not La Liga; and it’s in Saudi Arabia, not Spain — because Saudi Arabia is sending $300 million in sponsorship money to the Spanish federation. But fans will hold their noses and watch anyway, because it’s still El Clásico.
If Barcelona can pull off an upset to reach the final, it will be a big boost for a team that’s been hammered by COVID-19 cases, injuries, and continued financial mismanagement. There’s been some hope on the last front this week: Philippe Coutinho was loaned to Aston Villa, and Samuel Umtiti took a pay cut to make room for new signing Ferran Torres. If the Blaugrana can get rid of Ousmane Dembélé next, they might stand a chance of actually cleaning up their huge debts.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the second semifinal, Atlético Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao, which is set for Thursday (2 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+).
Cameroon vs. Ethiopia
Thursday, 11 a.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
The Union’s Olivier Mbaizo was a surprising absence from Cameroon’s 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in its AFCON opener — not just not starting, but not even on the bench. We’ll see if that changes for this game, or if news emerges about why he was sidelined. Whether Mbaizo plays or not, Cameroon should win this game and all but seal a berth in the knockout rounds.
Cape Verde vs. Burkina Faso
Thursday, 2 p.m. (beIN Sports, beIN Sports Español)
Jamiro Monteiro played very well in Cape Verde’s 1-0 tournament-opening win over Ethiopa. He set up the goal, and was influential in midfield throughout his 76-minute shift.
By the way, the fact that the Union have two players at this AFCON puts them in some special company. At the start of the tournament, 117 clubs from around the world had multiple players taking part. Only four were from outside Europe and Africa: two from Qatar, one from Saudi Arabia and the Union.
The global total might change a bit during the tournament. In fact, it already has, since Porto had two players involved until Nanu’s loan to Dallas. But for now, the Union remain the only team in the group that’s from North or South America.