Five countries to look out for in AFCON ’23

The draw for the 2023 African Cup of Nations set to be staged in Cote D’ivoire was finalized at the Parc des Expositions d’Abidjan earlier this week. The 34th edition of the prestigious continental tournament is now set to kick off in January next year. African football fans around the world cannot withhold the level of anticipation that accompanies it.

As a result, many supporters have started predicting the fates of their qualifying nations, what participating in the competition can do to their footballing status as well as their chances of winning the coveted trophy.

Historically, nations crowned champions of the African continent have always had the right balance between experience, quality, strings of magnificent displays, and a bit luck. Therefore, we compile a list of five countries that look the most threatening ahead of the second AFCON to be hosted by Ivory Coast in 2024.

5. Algeria

Algeria re-established themselves as one of the biggest footballing nations in the African continent with their run to glory in AFCON 2019. In the process, they defeated highly rated teams like Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Senegal in the process. Off the back of a convincing AFCON success, they proceeded to win the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup, which was held in Qatar.

The stellar results and trophy-filled seasons were coupled with a long period of incredible performances, glamorous showings that allowed them go 35 matches unbeaten. With the likes of Riyad Mahrez pledging to do everything possible to win it once again, they become an obvious threat to win the trophy once again.

4. Nigeria

Unlike their counterparts Algeria, Nigeria is overdue for an international trophy, but is once more a force to be reckoned with. Having missed out on the World Cup in Qatar last year, they are a nation aggrieved and willing to push beyond limits. They have now gone a decade without a piece of silverware, but still remain highly rated in FIFA’s latest compilation of CAF rankings. There, they are ranked sixth.

Nigeria is also unbeaten in its last five matches, putting up some impressive score lines in recent games. A notable result was their 6–0 victory against São Tomé and Príncipe in September. Victor Osimhen grabbed a brace, posing another glimmer of hope for the country. The quality of players in the team makes opposition wary of the damages that can be caused. With the likes of Samuel Chukwueze, Ademola Lookman, Victor Boniface, and Alex Iwobi among a host of others set to be included.

3. Egypt

The Pharaohs still hold the record for the most AFCON title wins with seven to their name. Just like Nigeria, the Egyptians are also approaching their 14th year of a trophy drought with their last trophy coming in 2010. Having finished runners-up in the last edition of the tournament – as well as in 2017 – this is another opportunity for Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah to captain his national team to glory.

Keeping in mind that Egypt has not a competitive match since March, no team is writing them off chances of winning an eighth crown.

2. Senegal

No team is as hungry as the defending champion. We saw that in Qatar 2022 with France’s long run to the final. In this case, a similar reaction can be expected of the Lions of Terranga while they fly to Côte d’Ivoire to defend their title.

They are a team with a lot of experience, but can also rely on youngsters like Ismaila Sarr and Nicolas Jackson. It could also be the last dance for the likes of Sadio Mané, Kalidou Koulibaly and Éduoard Mendy, whose careers are nearing its end. This means it could be one more shot for the golden era to rewrite history.

1. Morocco

After such a ravishing display of quality in the World Cup, the Atlas Lions of Morocco remain the most dreaded footballing nation on the continent. A fourth-place finish in Qatar 2022 means they became the first African nation to achieve that feat, and therefore will be unwilling to let it stop there.

Poised to compete in their second competitive tournament since the World Cup, Morocco is going into this competition as the best team in Africa and number 13 in the world according to the FIFA ratings. Eliminated in the quarter finals in the last AFCON, Morocco’s underperformance was heavily chastised by its local media.

This competition could be considered a source of redemption and an avenue to mark a significant achievement for the second golden era since the days of Ahmed Faras and Mustapha Hadji. With just one AFCON title to boast of after 20 participations, the next one is a challenge for the likes of Romain Saïss, Achraf Hakimi, Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou, among others.

Notable mentions

Save the five teams enlisted above, many other countries come into this tournament with plenty of potentials and can go on to lift the trophy in 2024. Some of these nations include Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Tunisia and Mali.

A competition which will reveal many more talents in the African region will also see many players making their first AFCON debut. The likes of Lyle Foster (South Africa) Bryan Mbeumo (Cameroon), Aaron Boupendza (Gabon) and the Ghanaian trio of Iñaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

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