For many Premier League managers and supporters, the Africa Cup of Nations is a nuisance that stops them from fielding some of their best players in January and into February.
The football played can be attritional, physical and a tough watch at times, but fans of the beautiful game can still enjoy watching the likes of Mo Salah and co strutting their stuff on the international stage.
The 2022 edition, held over from 2021, is hosted by Cameroon, and they got their campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso – aided by two penalties in five minutes from Vincent Aboubakar.
The result was notable for countless reasons, not least the incredible record that it continues. Cameroon now haven’t lost a game in the country’s capital, Yaounde, in 33 years!
Cameroon are STILL unbeaten in Yaoundé in 33 years, after beating Burkina Faso in the #afcon2021 opener.
— Gary Al-Smith (@garyalsmith) January 9, 2022
There is some mitigation – the Indomitable Lions often play their home matches in Douala, which is Cameroon’s largest city and its economic centre, but given that they are scheduled to play the rest of their Group A games in Yaounde, plus their Round of 16 game, semi-final and final should they top the pile, their fans of the nation have plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
But this remarkable stat certainly got us thinking: is Cameroon’s Yaounde dominance the longest unbeaten home streak in football?
Italy (21 years)
Cameroon’s home record includes friendlies and any other type of game you can think of, and that’s what makes it so impressive compared to the next best on the unbeaten home run list.
Italy, the European champions, come a very notable second on the rundown with an unbeaten streak in front of their own supporters that lasted 21 years!
Their streak, compiled via competitive matches only, began in 1999 and ran all the way through to 2021, when they were defeated in Milan by a familiar foe.
Just a matter of months after hoisting the European Championship trophy, the Azzurri were downed by Spain in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League.
That defeat also brought to an end a 37-game unbeaten run on home soil and away, which is a world record in competitive international football.
Real Madrid (8 years, 1 month)
It is, it has to be said, easier for an international side to maintain such incredible records given that their games are so infrequent.
It’s almost impossible for a club side to get even close to such a mark, so we have to give immense credit to the all-conquering Real Madrid team of the 1950s.
In 1955, they changed the name of their home stadium to the Bernabeu – as we know it today – and increased its capacity to 120,000, and almost immediately their form in front of their own supporters improved.
Of course, it helped that the Real had the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in one of their early ‘Galacticos’ iterations, and they set about compiling the longest unbeaten home record in club football history.
That lasted an incredible eight years and one month from February 1957 to March 1965, and encompassed a stunning 121 games. And who ended it? Their bitter local rivals Atletico Madrid!
Chelsea (4 years, 8 months)
There are a number of other European sides that give that Real Madrid record a good run for its money.
The likes of Red Star Belgrade (six years), PSV (five years and five months) and Nantes (four years and eleven months) have produced lengthy unbeaten runs on home soil on the continent.
But when we’re looking at the longest unbeaten streak on home soil in the Premier League, it’s Chelsea that take the spoils.
They went four years and eight months unbeaten at Stamford Bridge, in a run which started in the final throes of Claudio Ranieri’s reign – interestingly, the last team to defeat the Blues at that time was Arsenal’s Invincibles – before taking in the trophy-laden times of Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge.
The record remained intact for another year after Mourinho’s sacking in September 2007, with Avram Grant and then Luiz Felipe Scolari also maintaining Chelsea’s dominance in front of their own fans.
The record would end at the Bridge in October 2008, when Liverpool ran out 1-0 winners courtesy of Xabi Alonso’s long range strike.
While hard to confirm beyond all doubt, one player that enjoyed the longest unbeaten home run could be Manchester United’s former winger Lee Sharpe.
He played his part in a Manchester United side that went four years unbeaten at Old Trafford, starting in 1992 and running all the way through until August 1996.
Remarkably, that run only ended when Sharpe was transferred to Roses rivals Leeds United!