Photo by John Wessels / AFP
Defending Champions Senegal & Countries That Have Qualified for AFCON 2023
Slated for next year, we round up the teams that have booked their place in the run-up to the tournament.
Forty-six African nations are locked in a fierce battle to grab the 24 available slots in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), to be held in Ivory Coast from January 13 – February 11, 2024.
Kenya and Zimbabwe were locked out of the qualifiers after the government's encroachment. The former was reinstated a couple of months ago, but Zimbabwe are still suspended since the government is reluctant to implement the recommendations by FIFA.
Ivory Coast have prepared six stadiums in five cities to host the biennial competition. The biggest venue is the National Stadium based in Abidjan with a capacity of 60,000. Bouake Stadium, Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium, Korhogo Stadium, San Pedro Stadium and Yamoussoukro Stadium are the remaining five venues.
With matchday five already played, OkayAfrica takes stock of nations that have already qualified for the finals and their profiles.
The Super Eagles currently top Group A with 12 points from the five matches they have played. They collected maximum points against Sierra Leone (home and away), Sao Tome & Principe and Guinea Bissau, a team they surprisingly dropped points against in the first meeting. Red-hot Victor Osimhen has already scored seven goals in this campaign.
The Jose Peseiro-led team will be making a return to the prestigious continental competition for the 20th time.
They have been crowned three times (1980, 1994, 2013) and are among the favorites in the next edition thanks to their quality.
They are commonly referred to as the Wild Dogs (Djurtus), and in recent years, they have been getting it right in African football.
The Djurtus are the only team to have taken maximum points from Nigeria—a 1-0 win away. Maximum points against minnows Sao Tome and a draw away against the Leone Stars ensured they joined Nigeria as Group A representatives in Ivory Coast.
It will be their fourth time dining with the big boys. Their first-ever qualification was in 2017 and since then, they have been regulars.
However, they have not managed to get past the first edition and hopefully, they will break the jinx this time around.
The Stallions first tasted the continental competition in 1978 in Ghana, but did not get past the group stage.
Since then, they have qualified 11 times—excluding the ongoing campaign. Burkina Faso’s memorable outing was in 2013 when they went all the way to the final but failed to get past the late Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria.
In the 2023 qualifiers, Burkina Faso, under the guidance of Hubert Velud, registered three wins, a draw and loss in Group B that had Cape Verde, Eswatini and Togo to qualify. The eight goals scored are the most in their pool, but they will have to work on their defense that has so far leaked five goals.
Despite being among the tiniest nations in Africa, Cape Verde is making a name in the footballing world. They have been delivering when least expected. In the ongoing campaign, the Blue Whales were in Group B alongside Burkina Faso, Togo, and Eswatini.
They have managed to collect 10 points after victories over Togo, Eswatini and Burkina Faso. Their only loss and a draw came against Burkina Faso and Eswatini respectively. This will be the fourth time Cape Verde will be playing in the continental international competition, having also participated in the 2013, 2015 and 2021 editions. The best they have done is to reach the last eight in the 2013 edition held in South Africa.
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Since AFCON was established, Egypt has frequently participated. They have qualified a record 26 times out of the 34 editions held. It is worth noting the Pharaohs won the inaugural 1957 tournament. They have, since, secured seven titles, the last one being 2010 in Angola.
The Pharaohs will be aiming at going all the way in the 2023 edition after losing against Senegal in the 2019 edition. In the qualifiers, they were put in Group D with Guinea, Ethiopia, and Malawi. They showed their superiority by collecting four wins out of the five matches played. The only loss so far came away against Ethiopia in matchday two.
The National Elephants were pooled with Egypt, Malawi and Ethiopia in Group D of the qualifiers. They are guaranteed at least a second position after collecting nine points thanks to wins over Malawi and Ethiopia (twice).
They are among the big boys in the competition having qualified 14 times. Sadly, they have nothing to show for it. The best they have done is reach the finals in 1976 but failed to lift the trophy after falling to Morocco. Will they win their maiden title in the 2023 edition?
The Fennec Foxes have been way above everyone in the 2023 qualifiers. They have won all their five matches in Group F against Uganda (twice), Niger (twice) and Tanzania. The North Africans have further scored nine goals and conceded just two in the entire campaign.
As a result, they will be playing in AFCON for the 19th time since their first qualification way back in 1968. Algeria, who boast some of the best players in the world like Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, have won the competition on just two occasions, 1990 and 2019. In the 2021 competition, Algeria were disappointing and they ended up getting eliminated in the group stage.
Mali, commonly referred to as The Eagles, have now qualified for the AFCON competition 13 times. They first made it to the big stage in 1972 and went all the way to the finals but were beaten by Congo.
They have not managed to reach the final since then despite their undoubted quality and talent they enjoy. After an impressive campaign during the qualifiers, whereby they won four out of the five matches in Group G that has the likes of Gambia, Congo and South Sudan, the fans must be optimistic of a good outing in Ivory Coast. The only defeat the Eagles suffered was on matchday four away against Gambia.
The Chipolopolo have defied the odds to win four out their five Group H matches and get their ticket. Their 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on matchday five underlined their quality and intent ahead of the finals early in 2024.
Zambia will be playing in the AFCON for the 18th time. Their first appearance in the competition was way back in 1974. Despite the many times they have qualified, Chipolopolo have won the competition just once, in 2012.
By virtue of hosting it, Ivory Coast had a free ticket to compete. Being the hosts mean the pressure and expectations from the home fans are high, and the Elephants should take advantage of the home ground to deliver.
Despite qualifying 25 times, Ivory Coast have won the competition twice, 1992 and 2015, and the 2023 edition will be a perfect opportunity to get their third crown.
The National Thunder shocked Tunisia by winning 1-0 in their recent outing to qualify for the finals. This will be the fourth time the 94th ranked country in the world by Fifa will be playing on the biggest stage in Africa.
The best Equatorial Guinea have done in the past is reach the last four in the 2015 edition in which they hosted.
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In recent editions, Tunisia have struggled to make an impact despite their undoubted quality within the squad. The Carthage Eagles have played in 20 editions, but their most memorable was in 2004 when they hosted and beat rivals Morocco in the final.
On the road to Ivory Coast, the Carthage Eagles were put in Group J with Equatorial Guinea, Botswana and Libya. They won against the National Thunder at home by a massive 4-0 scoreline. They then drew 0-0 away against Botswana before back-to-back wins against Libya that gave them a ticket to Ivory Coast.
Tunisia will now be hoping to give their best and prove they are still a force to reckon with when it comes to African football.
The 2022 World Cup semi-finalists will surely want to start the year on a high. They have been tipped to go all the way in Ivory Coast with their golden generation. Just like Tunisia, the Atlas Lions have been enjoying quality in their squad but have little to show in terms of continental success.
In the qualifiers, they started on a high, beating South Africa and Liberia respectively to get an early advantage. However, they lost their recent game against Bafana meaning they are now second in Group K. A win against Liberia will ensure they return to the summit.
The North Africans have played the Africa Cup of Nations 19 times but have won the title just once, 1976, and the 2024 edition will be a chance for them to rewrite the history books.
The Lions of Teranga, who are the defending champions, have collected the second most points in the qualifiers, 13, after four wins and a draw in five Group L matches. They have most of their 2021 competition-winning squad meaning they cannot be underestimated. Having reached three finals in the previous 16 editions and winning once shows the potential Senegal have.
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South Africa are among the best countries in Africa when it comes to structures and facilities. However, that has not been reflected on the pitch especially in big competitions.
After a slow start, the 1996 champions managed to secure their place in the finals for the 11th time in their history. They suffered a 2-1 win against Morocco in Group K’s opening game, but managed to draw with Liberia at home before beating them away to qualify. The pool had just three teams after Zimbabwe’s suspension.
Coach Hugo Broos believes he has what it takes to ensure his team gets past the group stage and into the latter stage of the tournament.
Group C will be decided on matchday six that will be played in September 2023. Namibia have five points after completing their games followed by Cameroon who will play Burundi in their final match.
The scenario is almost the same in Group E. Ghana have nine points, one more than second-placed Angola. The Central African Republic have seven points while Madagascar, who are bottom with two points, have been eliminated. The Black Stars must avoid a loss against the CAR to qualify while Angola will need a win over Madagascar to be assured of their ticket.
Tanzania will need a point away against Algeria to lock out Uganda in Group F. The Cranes have four points, three less than Taifa Stars, and will play Niger in their next qualifier.
Gambia and Congo will have to battle for the remaining spot from Group G. The former have nine points but the latter, who have six points, will qualify if they win by any margin.
Anyone can qualify from Group I. Mauritania lead with eight points while the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon are in second and third positions respectively with seven points. Sudan are at the bottom with six. In the final pool hurdle, Mauritania will host Gabon as Congo DR entertain Sudan.
In Group L, Mozambique, who are on seven points, need to avoid defeat against challengers Benin, who are on five points, to qualify and join leaders Senegal in Ivory Coast.
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