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AFCON Tournament Major Guide: The host, dates & key contenders

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AFCON 2023

It’s maligned by certain sections of European football, but the African Cup of Nations is a prestigious tournament that beautifully celebrates the finest African football has to offer. 

Africa has gifted football some of its finest stars; Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Samuel Eto’o to name a few. AFCON is the continent’s kingmaker; win it and your legacy as one of Africa’s greatest is certifiably cemented. Who will step up and join this list at end of AFCON 2023?

In the tournament’s 34th instalment, 24 teams will flock to the West African coast to compete for the ultimate continental glory.

Egypt are the continent’s most successful nation, having won seven AFCON titles, including three consecutively from 2006 to 2010, followed by Cameroon’s four. Whether either of these nations adds to their trophy cabinet in 2023 remains to be seen.

But for now, here’s the lay of the land ahead of AFCON 2023.

ALSO READ | How AFCON and the Asian Cup will impact your FPL team:

afcon, fpl, premier league, fantasy

The complete AFCON 2023 guide

Where is the tournament held?

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast will host the tournament for the first time since 1984.

When is AFCON 2023?

13 January – 11 February 2024

Uniquely, AFCON is held every two years, as opposed to the four-year cycle commonly used in other international tournaments. Initially, it was planned for June-July of 2023, to align with European summer and limit club dissatisfaction at players departing for a month-mid season.

However, given the adverse summer weather conditions in the Ivory Coast, it was moved to January-February, 2024. Despite the date change, commercial considerations mean the tournament remains named AFCON 2023.

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Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been runner-up twice. Can he go one better at AFCON 2023?

How can I watch AFCON 2023? 

BEIN Sports broadcasts the tournament in Australia, with fans able to access all matches via a subscription. That appears to be the only option at this stage.

Who is competing in the tournament?

24 teams are split into six groups of four. They are as follows:

Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique

Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Gambia

Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola

Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia

Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania

AFCON 2023
Algeria’s hopes of victory rest on former Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez’ shoulders

Contenders: Who’s expected to go home with the trophy?

Senegal

Reigning champions Senegal remain incredibly strong and should be viewed as front-runners. Despite now plying their trades in Saudi Arabia, Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Edouard Mendy form a formiddale spine for Aliou Cisse’s Lions of Teranga.

The trio are joined by effective midfield screener Idrissa Gueye and silky dribbler Pape Matar Sarr, who form a partnership equal parts dynamic and destructive. Whether Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson has the goalscoring form to fire them to back-to-back victories is a major question mark. 

Morocco

Elsewhere, Morocco proved their value during their incredible run to the 2022 World Cup semi-finals. Hakim Ziyech grows another leg for his national side, while you’ll be hard-pressed to find a finer fullback pairing than Achraf Hakimi and Noussair Mazraoui. 

Sofyan Amrabat’s start at Manchester United has been patchy, but if he can put in even 75% of the shift he did in Qatar it should be enough to ensure Morocco is right in the fight. Concernedly, Youssef En-Nesyri has just five goals in 16 league games this season. He’ll want to pack his shooting boots to the Ivory Coast if his side are any hope of winning.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s attacking options are frightening. The Super Eagles currently have Italy’s, and maybe Europe’s, best striker – Victor Osimhen – as well as Germany’s, Victor Boniface – who has 10 goals and seven assists at the time of writing.

Complimenting these all-star strikers, who surely have to start together, are exciting wide players Samuel Chukwueze of AC Milan and Ademola Lookman from Atalanta. Expect a midfield axis of Wilfred Ndidi and Frank Onyeka to act as the side’s attacking foundations.

Egypt

Any side with Mohamed Salah can’t be ruled out, meaning Egypt will remain a problem for any opposition they face. The same can be said for Riyad Mahrez and Algerian, even if the former Manchester City winger’s powers might’ve diminished since he arrived in Saudi Arabia.

Cameroon

For four-time champions, Cameroon, their prospects of adding a fifth title to their trophy cabinet are significantly dented by Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo’s ankle injury sidelining him for the tournament, as well as Andre Onana’s newly acquired butter fingers.

Adingra, AFCON 2023
Ivory Coast winger, Simon Adingra, could play a crucial role in AFCON 2023

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s chances of delighting home fans and winning their third AFCON crown hinge on how well their strong squad gels. Ignore his Barcelona spell, Franck Kessie is an extremely talented midfielder, as are Nottingham Forest’s Ibrahim Sangare and Al Nassr’s Seko Fofana, who was the best midfielder in France in the 2022-23 season.

The fact Dortmund’s Simon Haller is likely to lead the Ivory Coast line is unbelievable at AFCON 2023 given his recovery from testicular cancer. If this core of classy footballers can capitalise on galvanising fervent home support, they might have enough to inspire them to victory. 

Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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